Real Madrid are two points clear at the top of La Liga after grinding out a victory at bottom club Espanyol.
Casemiro scored the only goal as he latched onto Karim Benzema’s brilliant no-look backheel through the legs of defender Bernardo Espinosa before firing home.
The Brazilian had earlier gone close to the opener when his shot from his own half was saved by Diego Lopez.
Espanyol had several chances with Thibaut Courtois making five saves.
Sporting director Francisco Rufete took over as manager on Saturday after replacing Abelardo Fernandez – the third Espanyol boss to be sacked this season.
They put up a good fight, with Wu Lei among the players to go close, but fell just short.
Real Madrid are now only six wins – or five wins and a draw – from a second La Liga title since 2012.
Barcelona FC had until a few days ago been the favorites to win the league but they slipped and drew with Celta Vigo. The Catalans are looking abit weary which might prove as the start of their downfall this season.
Real Madrid rivals Atletico Madrid can do them a favour when they visit Barcelona on Thursday. Should Atletico win, then Barca will be left licking their wounds if Real Madrid wins their next match. The gap might be extended to 5 points.
But it will be a surmounting task for Atletico to beat the Messi led Barcelona in their own field. Still a lion though wounded, Barca might come back stronger and hit them hard to edge past Real Madrid.
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