Real Madrid: How Will They Line Up Against Espanyol in Copa Del Rey?

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 20, 2014

Real Madrid's Pepe, from Portugal, second right, reacts after scoring with his teammate Marcelo, from Brazil, right, against Espanyol during a Spanish La Liga soccer match at Cornella-El Prat stadium in Cornella Llobregat, Spain, Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

January is a busy time in Spain for clubs that advance in the Copa del Rey, as Real Madrid have done, with the fixtures coming thick and fast.

Having bullied Real Betis on Saturday, Los Blancos’ attention returns to the cup on Tuesday with a trip to Espanyol looming. It’s little over a week since they were last at Cornella-El Prat, earning a 1-0 win in the league thanks to a Pepe header.

Carlo Ancelotti’s back five could once again pick itself.

Iker Casillas will return in goal in place of Diego Lopez, while Sergio Ramos, if considered fit, and Pepe will continue as the central defensive pairing.

If Ramos, who was taken off against Betis, isn't risked, Spanish outlet Marca have speculated that Nacho Fernandez, a defender who Ancelotti likes a lot, will be given a chance alongside Pepe.

Meanwhile, Raphael Varane has returned to training with the group, but he isn't available for selection yet.

On the left, Fabio Coentrao would have played, but his red card against Osasuna in the last round will open the door for Marcelo to return to the cup team. Alvaro Arbeloa has fallen behind Dani Carvajal in the race to start as right-back in league games, but he’s likely to start on Tuesday.

Who fills the six roles in front of them is less clear-cut though.

Ancelotti confirmed in his press conference ahead of the game, via @dermotmcorrigan, that he will stick with a 4-3-3 formation, even if it "creates difficulties for Isco."

"He can play in 4-3-3," Ancelotti continued, "but is not so comfortable. He could play as false nine sometimes though, taking Karim Benzema’s place."

That could mean a midfield three of Asier Illarramendi, who started in Pamplona last week, Angel Di Maria and one of Xabi Alonso and Luka Modric in midfield.

Alberto Saiz/Associated Press

Alonso was the starter when Los Blancos ensured their progression against Osasuna last week, so in the interest of rotation, Modric may be the man to earn some extra minutes against Javier Aguirre's side.

Further forward, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale look set to continue in the wide roles in the front three.

Ancelotti said, via Marca that "when he sees Ronaldo is tired, he will rest him." However, he added that he is fine to continue in the starting lineup at the moment.

That then leaves one from four to play the central striking role.

Karim Benzema is the obvious choice, Jese Rodriguez has been in good form, Alvaro Morata scored off the bench at the weekend and Isco is being considered as a false nine by his manager.

The French forward is the obvious choice, although, with it being a cup tie, don't be surprised if Ancelotti decides to mix it up a little bit with the odd surprise.


Predicted Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Asier Illarramendi, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria; Gareth Bale, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo