Espanyol and Real Madrid will get the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey kick started with a Jan. 21 contest at Estadi Cornella-El Prat.
The Copa del Rey involvement makes for a bit of a hectic schedule for both teams. Both clubs were in action on Jan. 18 in La Liga, and they will return to league action on Jan. 25.
Real Madrid have been looking fantastic. They won their Jan. 18 contest over Real Betis, 5-0. They also advanced to this stage of the Copa del Rey by handing consecutive 2-0 defeats to Osasuna.
Espanyol have been solid, but not nearly as dominant. They currently sit in eighth in the La Liga table and needed a 4-2 victory in the second leg of their showdown with AD Alcorcon to overcome their 1-0 defeat in the first leg and advance to this round.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 8 p.m. GMT/3 p.m. ET
Where: Estadi Cornella-El Prat, Barcelona, Spain
Watch: beIN Sport; beIN Sport Play
Key Storyline: Will Real Madrid be focused on this match?
After Barcelona and Atletico Madrid picked up draws in their last La Liga match and Real Madrid cruised to a 5-0 win, all of a sudden, Los Blancos are just a point back in the table.
It is easy to see how that momentum would start to intensify Madrid's dream of a La Liga title.
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged his team's improving position following the match with Betis. Here is Ancelotti in a quote captured by Marca and coming to us via Goal.com:
We are now where we wanted to be when the season began.
I've talked a lot about balance and I think we have now achieved that. We are scoring goals and we’re better defensively.
It is easy to see how this momentum in league action would distract them from pursuits in the Copa del Rey. That is especially true given the hectic schedule it creates. Don't tell any of that to Ancelotti, however.
Here is the coach, again from the above linked article, on this match:
We need to repeat the league match against Espanyol and if possible to improve it.
[Espanyol coach Javier] Aguirre can surprise us. They are a team with strong players, with great intensity and [will] seek an advantage in the first leg.
The goal is not to resolve the tie tomorrow [Tuesday], because it will be decided in the [second leg at the Santiago] Bernabeu.
We will see how serious Anelotti is about all of this when Madrid's lineup trots out for this match.
Prediction: Espanyol 2-2 Real Madrid
As you could probably tell from the above key storyline, I have my doubts about Real Madrid's focus on this match. I don't expect them to come out and lay down a complete clunker, but I do expect a sluggish start that will allow Espanyol to take the lead.
Real Madrid will battle back, however, to even things up before the second leg.