Santiago Solari is set to ring in the changes as Real Madrid prepare to host UD Melilla at Santiago Bernabeu in a Copa del Rey tie on Thursday night.
Real Madrid will be hoping to secure their safe passage through to the Copa del Rey Round of 16, when they welcome Spanish third tier outfit UD Melilla to the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night. Los Blancos hold a four-goal advantage from the first leg last month, which provides Santiago Solari a much needed luxury.
The Real Madrid boss can afford to hand most, if not all, of his regulars a rest while using the second leg Copa del Rey tie as a chance to provide some minutes to youth players and backups. Some of the fringe players can also use the game as an opportunity to stake their claim for a bigger role in future weeks.
Isco will be captaining Real Madrid for the first time tonight against Melilla in the Copa del Rey 💪 [marca] pic.twitter.com/c6Kk5Tsj3N
— SB (@Realmadridplace) December 6, 2018
Solari even pointed towards using the cup tie as the perfect outlet to give the young players a taste of first-team football, when he was quizzed on the topic during his pre-match press conference.
“There are games throughout the season that give chances for the youngsters, who come pushing for a place from below. Historically this club has always had players from the academy in the team. Since 2000, when I arrived, the focus has been on the academy, the facilities and the people who work on the development side.”
“I’ve had the fortune to have done it and it’s a very hard, anonymous job which isn’t always appreciated because the results aren’t seen immediately. The results at this club can be translated in to numbers.”
The first-team players who will be eager to amass some minutes include Keylor Navas, Alvaro Odriozola, Jesus Vallejo, Isco and Mariano Diaz. Isco and Navas, in particular, will be eager to prove a point to the Real Madrid boss, having been completely frozen out from the grand scheme of things over the last month or so.
While Navas is set to start in goal, Odriozola should be the right-back for Real Madrid, with Jesus Vallejo lining up at the heart of the defence alongside Javi Sanchez. Sergio Reguilon is likely to be the left-back against Melilla, in what will be another chance for the academy graduate to impress.
In the middle of the park, Marcos Llorente is likely to be afforded a rest, with Dani Ceballos starting in a deeper role. Isco and Federico Valverde should be the box-to-box midfielders, with the former looking to run the show for Real Madrid.
Up ahead in attack, Mariano Diaz should start as the striker, with Vinicius Jr. also getting a chance to impress Solari. Marco Asensio should complete the lineup against Melilla, with the Spanish international also hoping to make a case to be included more regularly in the starting lineup.