Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane hints at more playing time for budding Arab star Achraf Hakimi

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Zinedine Zidane insists he has no concerns over giving 18-year-old Achraf Hakimi regular playing time in the first team.

The Moroccan made his debut for Real Madrid in their 2-0 win over Espanyol at the Bernabeu on Sunday.

Hakimi made history as he became the first Arab to feature in the first team for Los Blancos in the La Liga encounter.

The defender was only called upon though because Dani Carvajal was sidelined with a virus that has infected his heart wall but Zidane claims he will continue to play the youngster as long as the Spaniard is unavailable.

“He was outstanding,” Zidane said after Hakimi’s impressive debut.

“Achraf has shown that he can play and I am not scared to throw him in going forward.”

“He is the second-choice right back and so if Carvajal is not available, he can play”.

Hakimi’s next outing could be for Morocco in their World Cup qualifier against Gabon.

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Real Madrid star Gareth Bale sidelined for Wales' crucial World Cup qualifiers

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Gareth Bale has been ruled out of Wales’ final two World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and the Republic of Ireland, Press Association Sport understands.

Bale’s fitness has been a source of concern for Wales since he suffered a calf muscle strain against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League last week.

The 28-year-old missed Real Madrid’s LaLiga clash with Espanyol on Sunday night but reported to the Wales camp the following morning.

Bale attended the FAW Awards on Monday night but will not be fit enough to play in the two qualifiers which will determine Wales’ World Cup ambitions.

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Ronaldo, Isco, Asensio Real Madrid's new trio and other talking points from win over Espanyol

Andy West 2/10/2017
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Isco scored twice as Real Madrid reduced the gap on La Liga leaders Barcelona to seven points courtesy of a 2-0 win over Espanyol.

Here’s a look at what we learned from the encounter.

IS THE CIA REPLACING THE BBC?

With Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale both injured, there was a new look to the Real Madrid attack as Marco Asensio partnered Cristiano Ronaldo up front while Isco pushed forward from midfield.

The much changed strike force bore fruit as the opening goal came when Ronaldo played a lovely through ball for Isco to beat the offside trap and convert a low finish after half an hour, before the points were wrapped up when Asensio teed up Isco for his second goal of the night with a smart finish.

Over the coming months manager Zinedine Zidane will have to endure an ongoing debate over whether the ‘CIA’ should be preferred to the ‘BBC’ when big games roll around, and at the moment there’s certainly no disputing the places of Ronaldo or Isco in the team’s strongest eleven.

That means Asensio, Benzema and Bale are competing for the remaining spot in the team, and with Asensio contributing amply to the team’s first home league win of the season he’s certainly mounting a strong case.

ACHRAF SHOWS STYLE ON DEBUT

Bale and Benzema weren’t the only absentees for Los Blancos, with full-backs Dani Carvajal, Marcelo and Theo Hernandez all missing as well.

That forced Zidane to field a debutant at right-back, and Achraf Hakimi did not disappoint. The 18 year-old, who is known primarily by his first name, is already a full Morocco international but he was born in Madrid and has been with the club since the age of eight.

SCOUTING REPORT OF ACHRAF HAKIMI, FIRST ARAB IN REAL MADRID’S FIRST TEAM

Having come through the youth system he should feel at home inside the Bernabeu, and in the opening stages of his debut he showed an abundance of confidence by producing a cheeky dribble down the right for create space for a dangerous cross.

Overall Achraf was sensible and measured rather than risk-taking, but that will have pleased his manager and Zidane will be content with the teenager’s solid contribution, knowing that he has unearthed another option for the full-back positions when the need arises.

Achraf Hakimi

Achraf Hakimi

MADRID STILL LACKING HOME COMFORTS

Although the two-goal cushion suggests a comfortable enough victory, this was by no means a completely convincing display from the hosts as they finally gained their first home league win of the season following two draws and a defeat.

Zidane’s men played well enough in the first half, and were only denied a bigger half-time lead than Isco’s opener by some good saves from visiting keeper Pau Lopez.

Espanyol had barely been in the game until the stroke of half-time when Gerard Moreno hit the post following a mistake by Casemiro, and that appeared to give the visitors a boost in confidence as they started the second half by far the stronger team.

There were several near misses in and around the Madrid penalty area, and at that stage an equaliser would have been no surprise at all as the home team defence was regularly caught out by its high line.

Isco’s second goal killed off Espanyol’s growing momentum and settled the game, but Zidane will send off his players into the international break knowing there is still an awful lot of room for improvement.

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