Real Madrid moved two points clear at the top of the LaLiga table with a narrow 1-0 win over basement side Espanyol on Sunday night.
Los Blancos made four changes, as Marcelo, Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Isco returned to the line-up, with Ferland Mendy, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior all dropped from the last win over Mallorca.
Madrid took their time on the ball in the opening exchanges but they were threatening on set-pieces, with Casemiro and Sergio Ramos both coming close with efforts at the far post from Kroos' deliveries.
Espanyol grew in the game midway through the first stanza, as Wu Lei came close to breaking the deadlock after Adrian Embarba's flicked-on sent him a clear sight of goal on the edge of the box but the Chinese attacker guided his shot over the bar.
The visitors came to life after a drinks break and Karim Benzema almost got the breakthrough nine minutes before the break after turning on the left channel and unleashed a powerful strike that was parried over the bar by goalkeeper Diego Lopez, who made made another great stop to deny Eden Hazard from point-blank range after a goal-mouth scramble on the stroke of half-time,
However, Casemiro finally broke the deadlock for Zinedine Zidane's charges with an out-stretched finish past the Spanish shot-stopper from another attack in the same moment thanks to a back-heel by Benzema.
Neither side were able to get into rhythm in the early stages of the second stanza, which prompted Zidane to make a double change in the 64th minute by bringing on Vinicius Junior in place of Hazard and Rodrygo in place of Isco to freshen up the attack.
Francisco Rufete's troops were fashioning chances upfront but they lacked the killer instinct although Madrid were keeping their shape at back and not willing to venture forward too much in the closing stages.
Zidane's men were living dangerously in the last five minutes, as Espanyol were piling on the pressure but in the end, they managed to hold on to a 1-0 win that moves them two points clear of Barcelona at the top of the log while Espanyol remain bottom.