Real Madrid host Sevilla FC in the Copa del Rey Round of 16.
Sevilla and Real Madrid will play three times in 12 days to open the year, and the theme surrounding this tie is — you guessed it — injuries. Last week we learned that both Lucas Vázquez and Mateo Kovačić picked up injuries and will be out for a bit. Lucas had been filling in for the still-injured Gareth Bale on the right wing. News also broke recently that Sergio Ramos will be out, and as of this morning, Pepe and Cristiano will sit the match out too, though it appears Cristiano was not injured.
With so many games against a very legitimate Liga title contender in such a short period of time, it’ll be interesting to see how Zidane handles these matches. Does he try to field his strongest 11 in each match? Or does he experiment in the Copa, focusing on winning the La Liga game at the Estadio Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán? Will James take Lucas’ spot? We discussed this at length on yesterday’s podcast.
The good news is that Real’s preferred midfield trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modrić, and Casemiro will be ready. In August’s UEFA Super Cup, Zidane was fearless in sending out a team of mostly reserves, but it took a last minute Ramos goal (sound familiar?) and a brilliant run and strike by Dani Carvajal to topple a 10-man Sevilla. Zidane will undoubtedly have more respect for Sevilla this time around.
Sevilla’s success is no fluke. As an organization they’re stable and don’t make reactionary signings or sales, and Jorge Sampaoli is a brilliant manager. Their French players this season have been outstanding, with Steven N’Zonzi, Wissam Ben Yedder, and Samir Nasri (who’s been in the news lately for...err...well...strange allegations).
This game has the potential to be a ton of fun to watch. Two teams with high-octane attacks and dodgy defenses, backed by two managers who aren’t afraid to let their guys run at each other.
Kickoff: Thursday, 4th January 2017 at 3:15PM EST.
Real Madrid: Keylor Navas; Marcelo, Pepe, Varane, Dani Carvajal; Casemiro, Kroos, Modrić, James, Benzema, Morata
Sevilla: Sergio Rico; Rami, Pareja, Mercado; Sarabia, Nasri, N’Zonzi, Iborra, Vitolo; Vietto, Yedder