One week ago, Pepe's header gave Real Madrid the three points against Espanyol. It was a match dominated by Ancelotti's men that could've been much easier if Cristiano Ronaldo's accuracy had not been off. Still, this is a different game, as Real Madrid's main goal will be to score one or two away goals before next week's second leg at the Santiago Bernabéu.
This time, Spanish striker Sergio García will be around. He missed the Liga BBVA fixture after being suspended. In that game, Sergio Ramos and Pepe's task was to stop a young and inexperienced Jhon Córdoba. Javier Aguirre will likely play both strikers in a 4-4-2 formation.
As Carlo Ancelotti announced during his pre-match press conference, Sergio Ramos presence in the starting XI remains questionable, so Nacho could get a start alongside Pepe. If so, Sergio García and Córdoba will surely cause Nacho some troubles, as Real Madrid's canterano is undersized. His aerial game isn't great and that will be one of Espanyol's main focuses.
Álvaro Arbeloa might as well start to help Real's central defenders. Carvajal played well enough against Betis but his defensive skills do not match Arbeloa's just yet.
Carlo Ancelotti also said that Karim Benzema could get some rest in order to give Isco some minutes in the false 9 position. Isco is having a hard time finding his spot in Real Madrid's new 4-3-3. It would also be interesting to see Jesé Rodríguez starting another match. He's making a big impact and this Copa del Rey games are perfect for him. He could easily harm Espanyol's left back Joan Capdevila, whose speed isn't that great anymore.
Asier Illarramendi could also be one of Ancelotti's rotations. Illarra needs to mature as a player and learn the position, and this could also mean that Xabi Alonso will get a much-needed rest in order to avoid injuries or fatigue down the road.
Cristiano Ronaldo will surely try to rebound from his poor game at Cornellá-El Prat eight days ago. The Portuguese player will not stay on the bench and could be enough for Real Madrid to score those coveted couple of goals that should allow Real Madrid to enjoy a much easier return leg at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Espanyol are a hard-working team that should not be able to stop Real Madrid in this Copa del Rey tie.