Real Madrid and Osasuna are set for battle in the first leg of their Copa del Rey round of 16 matchup. Even though the Blancos will enter as the favorites, the Rojillos should have added confidence after a league draw between the clubs last month.
Since the opening leg will take place at the Bernabeu, it's important for Real to build a lead so there isn't much pressure when they go out on the road. In a perfect world for the Blancos, they would build an insurmountable edge and be able to rest some key players in the second leg.
The game plan for Osasuna will likely be a simple defend-and-counter approach. They probably won't be able to emerge from the match with a victory, but a draw or simply keeping it close to give themselves a chance in the rematch would be an acceptable result.
With that in mind, let's examine all of the important viewing information for the cup clash, followed by a preview and match prediction.
What's your prediction for the first leg?
Where: Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Spain
When: Thursday, Jan. 9 at 3:30 p.m. ET (8:30 p.m. GMT)
Watch: beIN SPORTS en Espanol and Sky Sports 2
Live Stream: beIN SPORTS Play
Match Odds (via Bovada)
Real Madrid: -900
Top Storyline: Can Osasuna seriously challenge Real Madrid again?
Osasuna are enjoying some solid form as of late. After a sluggish start to the campaign, they have gone unbeaten over their past five matches across all competitions, including a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid in the middle of December.
The Rojillos actually led the match 2-0 after a pair of goals from Oriol Riera before Real stormed back to get a point out of the match. But it was a strong showing, at least for the first half, as they were able to stand tall against a top opponent.
Now the question is whether they can do it again.
Unlike the first match, when Real were far too passive in the early going, they are likely to come out of the gates flying looking for a couple early strikes to take complete control. They don't want to head into the second leg with the outcome still up in the air.
For Osasuna, that means putting up a defensive wall and hoping to survive the early attacking pressure from the Blancos. If they can do that, then some counterattacking opportunities open up and there's a chance to get a positive result.
The onus will probably be on Alejandro Arribas and Jordan Loties to lead that defensive effort. Of course, priority No. 1 is making sure to contain Cristiano Ronaldo, which was something the club did well in the last meeting.
One thing Osasuna can't expect is a weakened Real lineup despite the busy schedule. The Blancos' official site passed along comments from Carlo Ancelotti, who said he would put the best team possible out for the match, with Jese stepping in if needed:
Recovery is important for everyone. I'll put the best team possible out on Thursday because we need to keep winning for our confidence. Jesé has a chance of playing if someone has not recovered well. Jesé may be one of the most important players at the moment, even if he doesn't play from the beginning. When the other team are tired, putting on player a skillful is more important than doing so from the beginning.
The manager's comments make it clear Real won't be using the first leg as a chance to rest. It doesn't bode well for Osasuna's chances, but they must do everything in their power to at least give themselves a realistic chance in the second leg.
Real Madrid know they must elevate their level of form if they are going to capture some hardware during the second half of the season, whether it be in La Liga, the Champions League or the Copa del Rey. A 3-0 win over Celta Vigo in their first match back from break was a good sign to begin that quest.
While Osasuna have been playing better lately, it's still an uphill battle for them to get a positive result at the Bernabeu. Expect Real to get on the board early and cruise to a comfortable win to all but lock up a quarterfinal berth.
Real Madrid 3, Osasuna 0