After another disappointing home defeat to Villarreal on the weekend Los Blancos take on local rivals, Leganés, in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Madrid and Leganés were scheduled to play on matchday 16 in the league, but the fixture was postponed due to Madrid’s participation in the Club World Cup.
Leganés currently sit 13th in La Liga following a 3-2 away defeat to Real Betis Monday night. Los Legonarios have not played the most entertaining football in La Liga this season, however Asier Garitano has comfortably kept his side mid-table away from the relegation zone. This season Leganés have kept scorelines tight (14 of the 23 competitive matches they have played in this season have been decided by only one goal), and have found much success in the league from tight defensive networks and explosive counterattacks.
Real Madrid may still be without Sergio Ramos until the end of January, so the likes of Nacho or Vallejo will partner Varane in central defense. Karim Benzema has returned to training, but is likely miss out on the short trip south for the first leg tie.
There are a few injuries within the squad, so a few rotations will likely see the following Thursday evening.
Cuéllar, Zaldua, Muñoz, Mantovani, Rico; Pérez, Pires; Zhar, Eraso, Amrabat; Guerrero
Looking ahead Madrid will host 18th place Deportivo La Coruña on the weekend, so we should expect Zidane to select a strong squad for this tie. Leganés’ strength is winning aerial balls, so we should expect a Madrid XI that can provide vertical passes in addition to the usual crossing protocol.
Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, Asensio, Isco; Bale, Ronaldo
After poor results with the beloved diamond midfield, Zidane may use this game as an opportunity to experiment. We have seen a flat 4-4-2 a few times this season, and against a compact Leganés Zizou may select to pack the wings.
You’ll likely see Vasquez, Kovacic, Mayoral and come off the bench as substitutes.
0-1 Leganés - Real Madrid
Undoubtedly, bringing back an advantage and an away goal would lighten the pressure for the second leg. It would also provide a much needed morale boost for the team as they start the second half of the league fixtures.
Leganés are very good at defending set pieces and winning aerial duels, so expect the likes of Isco, Asensio, Modric, and Kroos to look for penetrating passes to Bale and Ronaldo behind the defense. We can expect the hosts to play on the counter attack and rely on defensive pressing. Madrid have the quality to take a lead back to the Bernabéu next week, but given Madrid’s form that may prove difficult Thursday night.
HOW TO WATCH, STREAM COPA DEL REY
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Time: 21:30 CET, 03:30pm EST, 12:30 pm Pacific.
Venue: Butarque, Leganes, Spain.