Real Madrid will travel to the north of Africa in need of some inspiration as they take on Melilla in a Copa Del Rey Round of 32 first leg tie on Wednesday
Spanish teams will quickly return to action in the midweek as Copa Del Rey resumes with the Round of 32. One of the most intriguing ties of the stage will see a struggling and shell shocked Real Madrid side travelling to the north of Africa to take on third division outfit UD Melilla at Estadio Municipal Alvarez Claro on Wednesday.
Melilla have started the 2018-19 season quite strongly, having been beaten just once in all competitions. The minnows currently sit second on the Segunda Division B Group 4 table, a point behind UCAM Murcia. In the King’s Cup, Luis Carrion’s men progressed to the Last 32 stage following a comfortable 3-0 win over CD Tudelano.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, find themselves in all sorts of trouble, having managed to win just one of their last seven games. Their latest winless result – a 5-1 mauling at the hands of Barcelona – ended up costing Julen Lopetegui his job, with Santiago Solari taking temporary charge of Los Blancos.
This is the first ever time when Real Madrid and UD Melilla will lock horns and ahead of their maiden meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Copa Del Rey encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Luis Carrion will be without the services of just one first-team player, with Nacho Aznar recovering from a long-term knee injury. Otherwise, the UD Melilla boss has a fully fit squad at his disposal, and should name his strongest eleven against a Real Madrid side that looks ripe for the taking.
In goal, Dani Barrio is a certain starter, having featured in every game for Melilla this season. The 31-year-old though, will need to be on his guard despite the Real Madrid attack misfiring of late. The back four, meanwhile, will likely comprise of Pepe, Paco Aguza, Richi and Jilmar Torres.
Up ahead in midfield, Menudo and Jordi Ortega should line up in the pivot, with the former not shying away from moving forward and adding to the numbers in the final third. Meanwhile, Antonio Otegui will shoulder the creative burden, occupying the half spaces behind the central striker, who should be captain Yacine Qasmi.
The wide areas should be occupied by Igor Martinez and Oscar Garcia, with the duo looking to make use of their pace to put the Real Madrid defence under pressure. Garcia, in particular, will look to move infield to create overloads inside the box alongside Qasmi.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Barrio; Pepe, Aguza, Richi, Jilmar; Menudo, Ortega; Martinez, Otegui, Garcia; Qasmi
Santiago Solari has a few pressing injury concerns to deal with ahead of the trip to the north of Africa to take on UD Melilla. On Wednesday, the interim Real Madrid boss will be without four first-team players, with Jesus Vallejo, Mariano Diaz, Raphael Varane and Dani Carvajal all unavailable.
Usually the absence of first-team regulars would not faze a Real Madrid manager ahead of a tie against Spanish minnows. But, with Los Blancos in a delicate situation, Solari will be wanting to utilise a healthy mixture of youth and experience.
Vallejo and Mariano, in particular, are the unlucky duo as these are the matches they can use to make an impression and stake their claim to be a regular. In Vallejo and Varane’s absence, Sergio Ramos could start on Wednesday, with Nacho for company at the heart of the Real Madrid defence.
But, Marcelo should be handed a rest, with Sergio Reguilon taking his place as the left-back. On the opposite flank, Alvaro Odriozola did not feature in Julen Lopetegui’s last two matches in charge, and will be looking to take the outing against Melilla as his chance to shine.
In midfield, the underperforming trio of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Casemiro might start on the bench, meaning Dani Ceballos, Marcos Llorente and Federico Valverde will all get rare starts. Up ahead in attack, Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema are the big name players likely to start, with Vinicius Jr. completing the lineup.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Casilla; Odriozola, Nacho, Ramos, Reguilon; Ceballos, Llorente, Valverde; Asensio, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
- This will be the first ever time when Real Madrid will face off against UD Melilla.
- Melilla’s form is in heavy contrast to their visitors, having lost just one game in all competitions thus far (W9 D3).
- Real Madrid, on the other hand, have lost five of their last seven matches across all competitions (W1 D1).
- Melilla have never made it past the Round of 32 in the Copa Del Rey.
- Real Madrid have a brittle defence, having conceded at least one goal in 10 of the 14 matches that they have played this season.
Player to Watch
In the face of turmoil, there are a few who can be bestowed with the opportunity to rise up and make a major impact. With Luka Modric and Toni Kroos flattering to deceive thus far this season, Federico Valverde has the opportunity to give his manager an additional option and even usurp the old workhorses.
The game against Melilla presents the Uruguayan with the chance to impress right from the get-go, and a solid performance in the middle of the park will be imperative, if Real Madrid are to get closer to a place in the next round. Who knows, a solid performance helps him rack up more minutes in the games to come.
UD Melilla 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s trip to the north of Africa comes at a weird moment. Los Blancos have not been in such a difficult transitional period since Rafa Benitez’s ill-fated reign nearly three years ago. Since then, they have built up a reputation of being a ruthless side that beats almost every team that crosses its path.
But, Melilla have the chance to spring up a surprise at a time when Real Madrid can do very little right. Santiago Solari’s men though, will realise that the Copa Del Rey presents them with the most realistic chance of winning silverware this season, as things stand.
In addition, with several young players likely to feature, Real Madrid might have enough firepower and belief to get a positive result on Wednesday. The Hard Tackle predicts a keenly contested affair, with the visitors edging out Melilla 2-1 in the first leg.