Real Madrid are eyeing a place in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night against their city rivals Atlético Madrid. El Derbi kicks off at the Santiago Bernabéu on what will be a cold evening in the Spanish capital (9 pm local time, 3 pm ET, noon PT), with both teams having some momentum to build upon.
Recent results have subdued the doubts generated in previous weeks, and the visitors know the casualties of Real Madrid, who will be without Tchouameni, Carvajal, Lucas Vázquez and Hazard.
Ancelotti’s solid defense
In goal, manager Carlo Ancelotti has nothing to think about. Against an opponent like Atleti, his goalkeeper will be Courtois. The Belgian was already starting against Villarreal in the round of 16, as Lunin dropped to the bench. The Ukrainian knows that it will be difficult for him to play again this season, except for an injury to the number one or an early league title for Los Blancos, as happened last season.
In defense, without Carvajal or Lucas, the right-back will once again be Nacho, currently the best-fit defender at Real Madrid. Militao and Rudiger will occupy the central positions again and the left side will be for Mendy. Alaba has recovered from his injury that kept him out recently and is back in the squad, but it is most likely that he’ll start the game from the bench.
In midfield, Ancelotti will continue to reward the good form of players such as Camavinga, who will act as a defensive shielda role in which he shone at San Mamés, and Ceballos, the cup savior against Villarreal and who also performed well in Bilbao. The third midfield position will likely be filled by either Modric or Kroos, the Croatian being the most likely.
Valverde, an Attacker and half
Despite lining up as a 4-3-3, Madrid will actually have four midfielders. The energetic Valverde will once again occupy that role of false right winger that has done so much good for Los Blancos. In the Offensive phase, it will be one more attacker; and in defense, the Uruguayan will line up with the midfielders and help Nacho on the right side. On the far left and through the middle there will be no surprise: Vinicius and Benzema, respectively.
Some players with the qualities to change the game will be waiting on the bench, if necessary. Alaba, Kroos or Modric, depending on who Ancelotti leaves out, Asensio, Rodrygo. All bring different qualities to potentially change the game as required. There will also be a sprinkling of homegrown players like Mario Martín or Arribas, especially the latter, a midfielder with a knack of finding the net.
Real Madrid: Predicted starting XI
Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Rüdiger, Mendy; Modric, Camavinga, Ceballos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.