Sergio Ramos has warned his teammates that the 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie was “a good one, but not a comfortable one,” via J. L. Calderon of Marca.
It’s a sentiment which Carlo Ancelotti will surely be drilling into his side ahead of the return match at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday night.
Getting knocked out to Atletico at this stage would have been one thing, but to get knocked out to them having been three goals up from the first leg could lead to Armageddon in the Spanish capital.
However, despite the warnings and the need to take the tie seriously, Madrid’s coach may still be tempted to make some small changes following a run of games which has seen him largely use the same 11 or 12 players.
Two changes Marca assure he will certainly make from the weekend’s win over Villarreal will be restoring both Iker Casillas and Cristiano Ronaldo to the starting lineup.
Ronaldo is currently serving a three-match suspension in the league but is available to play in the cup, while Casillas hasn’t played in La Liga for over a year. He has been the undisputed starter in cup competitions under Ancelotti though.
In front of Casillas, it is anticipated that one of Ramos or Pepe—both of whom are a yellow card away from missing the final—will make way for the returning Raphael Varane.
There’s relief in the left-back position with Marcelo making an instant return to training after hobbling off in some discomfort at the weekend; Marca say he will be fit to play. The Brazilian will start ahead of Fabio Coentrao who, after also being taken off injured in the last match, has only been working in the gym, according to AS.
Alvaro Arbeloa is expected to complete the back four.
Ancelotti’s midfield trio will once again comprise of three from four: Xabi Alonso, Angel Di Maria, Luka Modric and Asier Illarramendi—the candidates in Sami Khedira’s continued absence.
Alonso only came on as a substitute against Villarreal on Saturday, so he should start in the middle of the park alongside Di Maria, who continues to impress in his new role, and Modric, who has been one of Madrid’s best players this season.
Ronaldo’s return will ensure a scramble between as many as five players to take the other two places in Los Blancos’ forward line.
Depending on how fit Gareth Bale is, either he or Jese Rodriguez—who has scored in the club’s last four matches—will start on the right of the Madrid front three in front of Arbeloa.
In the middle, Benzema is the obvious candidate to lead the line, but Marca have suggested the Frenchman may find himself rested with Alvaro Morata or Isco, as a false nine, given a chance to impress.
Predicted Real Madrid XI: Iker Casillas; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria; Jese Rodriguez, Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo