Real Madrid Take Charge Of La Liga Title Race

Zinedine Zidane returned as Real Madrid coach in March last year

Espanyol's Bernardo Espinosa in action with Real Madrid's Karim Benzema.

His crucial assist in Los Blancos' slender 0-1 victory at Espanyol on Sunday night solidified Madrid's place at the top following Barcelona's draw at Celta Vigo, and cemented his position as one of this season's best players in LaLiga. (This win) is very important. "I can't say we don't look at Barcelona, we do, of course, but we're focused".

"We are close to the Champions League and don't put any limits on what we can aspire to".

With Real content at preserving their lead and Espanyol keen to avoid further damage, the game drifted towards its conclusion, and by the time the hosts mounted a late rally they were unable to regain momentum as Real returned to the top of the table and left Espanyol floundering at the foot.

"He took a big hit but it's just a knock I think", said Zidane.

City rivals Atletico can do them a favour when they visit Barca on Thursday.

Sporting director Francisco Rufete took over as manager on Saturday after replacing Abelardo Fernandez - the third Espanyol boss to be sacked this season.

Madrid's resurgence has been based on a solid defence, which conceded nine goals during a 21-match unbeaten run earlier this season.

"They give us a lot of security". "It was an incredible assist".

'I won't coach for 20 years.

Madrid, though, were scruffy and ponderous at the RCDE Stadium, this perhaps their least impressive win over the last three weeks.

"We were playing against a team who came out to fight to the death". Madrid defender Dani Carvajal blocked a strike by Sergi Darder three minutes into the game when Wu found him with a low cross.

Madrid were sloppy but created chances.

A scrap in the penalty area ended with Diego Lopez palming over a half-volley from the quiet Eden Hazard. An inconsistent Gareth Bale, and a couple of youngsters from Brazil, Vinicious Junior and Rodrygo, both 19 are Benzema's partners when they are deemed fit.

Madrid's momentum was slowed by the break, yet subsequent speculative Espanyol efforts from distance did not cause Thibaut Courtois significant concern as another win was sealed. Marcelo nearly deflected into his own net for the last action before the whistle blew.

Former Valencia forward Paco Alcacer opened the scoring with a superb volley on the turn in the 14th minute but opted against celebrating against the club where he began his career.