Real Madrid were without Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale on Saturday but Karim Benzema stepped up again to ensure they beat struggling Espanyol in La Liga.
Benzema scored one and set up another in a 2-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Real wore an all-green kit to show support for this week’s Climate Summit in the city. Victory means Zinedine Zidane’s side move to the top of the table, for a few hours at least, before Barcelona play later at home to Real Mallorca.
Espanyol, who have not won in six league games, stay 19th.
An ankle injury is likely to rule Hazard out of the season’s first Clasico on December 18 while Bale has a thigh problem and is also a concern ahead of that crunch game at Camp Nou.
But another excellent Benzema display will at least be of some consolation, after he teed up Raphael Varane before scoring his 15th goal this term to put Espanyol out of sight.
“We’re talking about Karim a lot recently, in a good way,” said Zidane. “He’s getting older and that’s made a difference, his maturity.
“None of us are perfect. But he’s asked to chase and he does it. He’s asked to score and he does it. I can’t ask for more, only that he keeps doing it.”
Increasingly it looks like the winner of the Clasico will spend the Christmas break first in the table, with the top two pulling away from the likes of Atletico Madrid, who drew away at Villarreal on Friday.
Sevilla, in third, are four points behind Zidane’s side before they travel to Osasuna on Sunday.
The absence of Hazard and Bale meant Rodrygo came in on the right of the front three while Vinicius Junior was given a rare chance to stake a claim on the left.