Pepe, CR7 and Marcelo - key's to taking down the Blaugrana.
Going into tomorrow's tie at the Santiago Bernabeu both Real Madrid and the villainous FC Barcelona have one thing in common; neither team is going to be at one hundred percent full fitness, though you could argue that no team at this point in the season is. This very reason could affect how either manager (Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola) make their team selections and first choice XIs.
This could also decide which shape either team starts the match in, though we know (at least we think we know) that Mou will come out with his 4-2-3-1--however, because of injuries, he could go 4-3-3 with this being a two legged tie.
First let's take a look at who's out for the Blaugrana.
- David Villa: Broken Leg
- Ibrahim Afellay: ACL
- Pedro: Thigh
Seydou Keita: Playing in the Africa Cup Of Nations
Villa and Afellay have been out for a while and were really non-factors going into this two legged affair to begin with, but Pedro picked up his knock just recently. Keita isn't injured, but iis out on national team duty playing in the Africa Cup Of Nations tournament. One change we may see is that for the last couple of years, Pinto has started between the pipes in the Copa Del Rey, and not Víctor Valdés.
Of course they could deploy the 3-4-3 shape that has been very good for Barcelona. If they do not have have a lot of depth in the defense, this would make the most sense. At the beginning of the season this was met with slightly mixed results (and reviews by the Barca faithful) but it seems to me that might be the future for the blaugrana.
Now let's take a look at what los meringues are going to be missing heading into tomorrow's match.
- Ricardo Carvalho: Knee
- Sami Khedira: Ankle
- Ángel Di María (?): Thigh
- Pepe (?): Leg
- Álvaro Arbeloa: Red Card
First let's look at the two question marks on that list: Di Maria and Pepe.
According to reports, Di Maria will be in the 18 for tomorrows tie, though whether or not he's in the XI is another matter altogether. As far as Pepe goes, I highly doubt it'll be anything to keep him out of the starting XI, as he's the guy that's going to be used to shut down Lionel Messi at all costs. He's done it before, and I'm sure Mourinho is going to do it again. If there's one thing that Messi can't handle it is being handled physically, though Pepe has to keep his head on straight.
If Di Maria isn't going to start, that spot should go to Jose Callejon. It might surprise you to know that he is our leading scorer in the tournament with three goals in three appearances, all starts. So do you play a less than one hundred percent Di Maria at the start, or go with the Copa Del Rey hot hand (or foot as the case may be) and start Callejon? To me (at least) this seems pretty obvious.
Of course, it'll be interesting to see how Mou and Pep play a bit of football chess in tomorrow's tie.