Despite suffering a defeat against Manchester City in the Champions League, there was a distinct sense content for many Los Blancos coming away from Tuesday night.
That optimism was less present on the face of Carlo Ancelotti post-match, even if he did praise the mental strength of his team. A large part of that irritation was the poor defensive performance on the night.
Real Madrid conceded four, but it could easily have been many more had Manchester City shown a similar ruthlessness to that of Karim Benzema. Eder Militao was out of sorts and David Alaba was forced off at half-time with injury. Both he and Ferland Mendy were recovering from injuries an neither looked their usual selves.
That leaves Ancelotti with a conundrum for their weekend fixture with Espanyol. Los Blancos need just a point to secure the title and would likely have rotated at any rate, but options are thin at the back.
As Mundo Deportivo point out, both Militao and Nacho Fernandez are suspended for the match. Alaba is unlikely to be risked for the match, leaving just Jesus Vallejo as the only senior defender in the squad.
Vallejo has played just three times this season, accumulating a not so grand total of 14 minutes of action in those appearances. Clearly, Ancelotti does not trust Vallejo but will likely be forced to use him on Saturday. Short of shifting another defender or midfielder into the position – Dani Carvajal played there in the late stages of their match with Chelsea – youngster Rafa Marin may get a look in. The 19-year-old has yet to make an appearance this season but has been included on the bench recently.