Spanish playmaker Isco could be in line for a start when Real Madrid face off against Girona in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal on Thursday.
Real Madrid are set to lock horns against Eusebio Sacristan’s Girona in the first leg of their quarter-final tie of the Copa del Rey, at the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night.
The domestic cup competition provides Real Madrid the best chance of winning a silverware this season, with their La Liga ambitions all but over. And Santiago Solari’s men will be aiming to take a step closer to the semi-finals by coming away with a significant advantage from the first leg of the last eight stages.
Heading into Thursday’s encounter, Los Blancos continue to be without the services of goalkeeper Keylor Navas, who picked up a groin injury last week. That would mean Solari will start with first-choice Thibaut Courtois between the posts for the cup tie.
There are a few changes likely in defence though, as Real Madrid vice-captain Marcelo could be recalled into the starting XI at left-back, having been overlooked for Sergio Reguilon in recent matches. The manager gave his backing to the Brazilian in his pre-match press conference, dropping a hint that Marcelo will start against Girona.
“There can be no question about his love and commitment towards this club, his upbeat attitude in training and his impeccable conduct,” Solari said of the experienced defender.
There is likely to be a change in the other full-back slot as well, with Alvaro Odriozola, who has played every minute of the cup competition, set to replace Dani Carvajal. Raphael Varane should start at the heart of the defence, but will be partnered by Nacho in place of captain Sergio Ramos.
Real Madrid’s midfield options have been bolstered by the return to fitness of German international Toni Kroos and Marcos Llorente. “We’re pleased because there are some players who are now back and training with the team. Toni, Llorente, Mariano…,” Solari revealed in his pre-match presser.
Casemiro, who scored in last weekend’s 2-0 win against Sevilla, should hold on to his spot at the base of the midfield, while Kroos should walk back into the starting XI, now that he is fully fit.
The third midfield slot is likely to be taken up by Spanish international Isco. The former Malaga man has struggled for game time under the new manager and will be looking to make a statement when he gets an opportunity this week.
Mariano Diaz is also fit, but is unlikely to be rushed back into action by Solari, while Karim Benzema is expected to play from the kick-off again, despite carrying a finger fracture.
“A lot of it comes down to the players’ competitive spirit and willingness, in this case about Karim, to continue playing,” the manager said, speaking of the Frenchman.
Flanking him on the left-side will once again be Brazilian starlet Vinicius Junior, who has been the brightest spot for Real Madrid in recent matches. On the opposite wing, January signing Brahim Diaz could be in line to make his first start for Los Blancos, following Lucas Vazquez’s ineffective display at the weekend.