Real Madrid fought back from a goal down to claim a 3-1 victory over Espanyol at the Bernabeu on Saturday, as the hosts returned to winning ways ahead of a potentially season-defining week in which they face Liverpool and Barcelona.
Second-placed Madrid, who scored through Vinicius Junior, Eder Militao and Marco Asensio, maintained their slim title chances by moving up to 56 points -- six behind leaders Barcelona, who travel to Athletic Club on Sunday.
"We needed the three points. It's the start of a very important week, with the Champions League and the Clasico," Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti told Movistar Plus.
"We [will go into it] with good dynamics. Hopefully we can prepare well for Wednesday's game, which can have a lot of traps, and we have to avoid them."
Espanyol, who remain 13th, opened the scoring in the eighth minute, as Joselu lashed the ball into the top corner past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois following Ruben Sanchez's cross from the right flank.
Ancelotti voiced frustration at his side's poor start but praised them for coming back into the game, saying, "we controlled well, it was a good game. We needed to win no matter what - we won, and we're on to the next one."
Madrid stepped up the pressure as they sought a leveller, with Eduardo Camavinga getting a shot on target, before Vinicius showed his individual skill in the 22nd minute to cut into the box, beat two defenders and rifle in.
The goal was the Brazilian's 19th in all competitions, moving him above Karim Benzema as the club's leading scorer this season.
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With Espanyol pinned back in their own half, the home side took the lead six minutes from half-time as Militao scored with a bullet header after Aurelien Tchouameni put in a cross with the outside of his foot.
Madrid continued to press after the break and Rodrygo almost scored their third with a free kick effort that cannoned off the crossbar in the 75th minute.
Striker Benzema did not feature due to an ankle injury, but he is expected to be fit for next week's Champions League knockout round game against Liverpool as well as the top-of-the-table clash with Barcelona.
"They caught us out a bit with the goal," Madrid defender Nacho said postmatch. "But this game gives us confidence ahead of a difficult week... We're a team that, when spaces open up, we have players up front who can use their speed."