Real Madrid saw off the challenge of a well-organised Espanyol side at the Santiago Bernabeu with goals from Alvaro Morata and Gareth Bale to extend their lead at the top of the table to four points ahead of Barcelona's game against Leganes on Sunday.
Zinedine Zidane made seven changes from the side that beat Napoli in midweek. Karim Benzema, Luka Modric and Keylor Navas were all handed a rest and Sergio Ramos was absent with injury but his side were rarely troubled by Espanyol despite missing its normal spine. Bale's goal-scoring return was the best news of the day as Real go into a packed fixture list in the next couple of weeks.
The home side were slow out of the blocks and Espanyol occasionally threatened to fashion something on the break in the opening exchanges but this was an extremely comfortable victory.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Back to his tried and trusted 4-3-3, the Real boss had little to do in terms of in-game tactical tweaking and he got his substitutions spot on.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Kiko Casilla, 6 -- Other than a routine stop from Hernan Perez, Casilla was a spectator all afternoon.
DF Dani Carvajal, 7 -- Real's best right-back is surely among the best in the world now and put in a typically all-action display on the right. He didn't get forward as much as he usually does but that is credit to Lucas Vazquez and not a markdown on Carvajal.
DF Pepe, 7 -- The Portuguese has returned as though he was never absent and was active at both ends, heading a decent chance wide on 12 minutes and leading Pablo Piatti a merry dance at the end of the first half that the crowd enjoyed.
DF Raphael Varane, 7 -- Varane was given little reason to break a sweat by Espanyol's normally incisive attack but was equal to what little the visitors asked of him with three headed clearances and two tackles.
DF Nacho, 6 -- Another solid display from Mr. Reliable, although he remains prone to the odd misplaced pass. Nacho isn't Marcelo but does a passable impression with his runs down the left. Went off with just under 10 minutes to go possibly nursing a muscle problem after a clash with Perez, which Zidane will pray is just a knock.
MF Mateo Kovacic, 8 -- The Croatian literally bled for the team and made more tackles than any of his teammates in a busy performance in midfield that earned him a deserved ovation.
MF Toni Kroos, 7 -- Kroos' delivery was good all afternoon and he put Morata through with a pinpoint ball only for the striker to be whistled for offside. Had the better of his duel with the force of nature that is Pape Diop.
MF Isco, 9 -- Two assists from the Malagueno and the first for Morata was an absolute beauty, the midfielder shaping his body and sending in a glorious cross. Picked out Bale's run for the second and got stuck in when needed.
FW Lucas Vazquez, 8 -- Vazquez was a pest all afternoon in the Espanyol back line and put in a number of teasing crosses that deserved better reading from his forwards. Defended from the front with three tackles and boundless energy.
FW Alvaro Morata, 7 -- The striker took his chance in an increasingly rare start and opened the scoring with a well-taken header for his seventh of the season. Morata also took the applause of the Bernabeu after a decent game.
FW Cristiano Ronaldo, 6 -- Ronaldo pulled off a wonderful piece of trickery to lose David Lopez in the first half but couldn't find a teammate with the hard work done. Had the ball in the net on the half hour but was rightly called offside. As against Napoli, Ronaldo was keen to turn provider and put in a great cross for Vazquez but not for the first time this season he didn't manage a shot on target.
MF Casemiro, 7 -- On for Kovacic with 30 minutes to play, the Brazilian lent his no-nonsense approach to the midfield and pushed Espanyol even further away from Casilla's goal.
FW Gareth Bale, 7 -- Introduced for Morata in the 70th minute to a huge cheer, Bale rolled up his sleeves immediately in defence and then sealed the game on 83 minutes with a trademark run into space and low finish.
DF Marcelo, NR -- On for Nacho with about 10 minutes left, the Brazilian will have been grateful for the leg stretch ahead of Wednesday's match at Mestalla.