Real Madrid fought back from a goal down to claim a 3-1 victory over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday, as the hosts returned to winning ways ahead of a potentially season-defining week in which they face Liverpool and Barcelona.
Second-placed Real, which scored through Vinicius Jr, Eder Militao and Marco Asensio, maintained its slim title chances by moving up to 56 points - six behind leader Barcelona, which travels to Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.
“We needed the three points. It’s the start of a very important week, with the Champions League and the Clasico,” Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told Movistar Plus.
“We (will go into it) with good dynamics. Hopefully we can prepare well for Wednesday’s game, which can have a lot of traps, and we have to avoid them.”
Espanyol, which remains 13th, opened the scoring in the eighth minute, as Joselu lashed the ball into the top corner past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois following Ruben Sanchez’s cross from the right flank.
Ancelotti voiced frustration at his side’s poor start but praised it for coming back into the game, saying, “we controlled well, it was a good game. We needed to win no matter what - we won, and we’re on to the next one.”
Real stepped up the pressure as it sought a leveller, with Eduardo Camavinga getting a shot on target, before Vinicius showed his individual skill in the 22nd minute to cut into the box, beat two defenders and rifle in.
The goal was the Brazilian’s 19th in all competitions, moving him above Karim Benzema as the club’s leading scorer this season.
With Espanyol pinned back in their own half, the home side took the lead six minutes from half-time as Militao scored with a bullet header after Aurelien Tchouameni put in a cross with the outside of his foot.
Real continued to press after the break and Rodrygo almost scored its third with a free-kick effort that cannoned off the cross-bar in the 75th minute.
Asensio smashed in a third in added time to wrap up the win for Real, which had dropped points in draws with rival Atletico Madrid and Real Betis in its last two league games.
Striker Benzema did not feature in Real’s win due to an ankle injury, but the Frenchman is expected to be fit for next week’s Champions League knockout-round game against Liverpool as well as the top-of-the-table clash with Barcelona.