Real Madrid will be looking to advance to the Last Eight of the Copa Del Rey when they lock horns with Real Zaragoza in the Round of 16 on Wednesday evening.
After a stuttering beginning to the season, Real Madrid have enjoyed quite an astonishing start to the new year, winning all of their matches across all competitions. They are leading arch-rivals Barcelona by three points at the top of La Liga table.
On Wednesday, they will be looking to extend their excellent run of form in domestic competitions, when they take on Real Zaragoza, in the Round of 16 of Copa Del Rey at La Romareda. Zinedine Zidane’s side are coming on the back of a narrow 1-0 win over Real Valladolid while they also won 3-1 in the last round of Copa Del Rey, against Unionistas.
Zaragoza, meanwhile, have fared well in La Liga 2 this season. They are flying high in fourth place, trailing league leaders Cadiz by just six points. In the earlier round, they had defeated RCD Mallorca 3-1. It was followed by a 1-0 win over CD Numancia on Saturday.
But, this time, it could be a very different ball game, against a Real Madrid side, who will be keen on returning to the top of Spanish football this season. And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will take a look at the two sides ahead of this Copa Del Rey matchup this week.
Team News & Tactics
With an opponent of this stature, Zaragoza are more than expected to drop back and defend deep, in an attempt to wear Real Madrid out whilst playing on the counter. That means coach Victor Fernandez will surely shore up his side’s defence this week.
Fortunately for the 59-year-old, he will be having no fresh injury concerns ahead of this fixture. Star player Shinji Kagawa is a doubt, having been left out on the bench in the recent win over Numancia. We do, however, expect the Japanse to feature against Real Madrid.
That means Javi Puado could make way, in the number ten slot. There, Kagawa and top scorer Luis Suarez could form the Zaragoza attack, although the former is expected to operate in a slightly deeper role.
Things could remain unchanged in defence, though the absence of club captain Alberto Zapater in midfield could once again serve as a massive blow for the home side. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see whether or not they manage to hold out Real Madrid in the second line of press, which will be led by Raul Guti and Inigo Eguaras.
Probable Lineup (4-4-1-1): Alvarez; Vigaray, Atienza, Guitian, Nieto; Soro, Guti, Eguaras, Blanco; Kagawa; Suarez
Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane is expected to ring in the changes following their 1-0 win against Real Valladolid last time out. Not to mention, the Frenchman will have one eye on the all-important Madrid derby that will be played out on Saturday.
Hence, we expect him to provide youngsters with the opportunity to impress in this fixture while resting some of the more important individuals. Casemiro, in particular, is set to receive a breather, having remained an ever-present figure in the Real Madrid midfield for the most part of the campaign.
The Brazilian wasn’t included in the 19 man squad for the trip to Zaragoza. Federico Valverde is likely to deputise for him in the holding midfield role. The Uruguayan could be partnered by Toni Kroos and Luka Modric, even though both of them started in the last game.
In defence, Dani Carvajal could return to the side, allowing Nacho Fernandez to shift into a central role, at the expense of Sergio Ramos.
Eder Militao is not included in the squad, meaning Raphael Varane will likely continue at the heart of Real Madrid’s four-man backline while Marcelo could replace Ferland Mendy at left-back. Alphonso Areola is a guaranteed starter in goal, at the expense of Thibaut Courtois.
And finally, in the attack, Eden Hazard is still not ready to get back in action. However, Vinicius Junior is likely to get the nod ahead of Isco at left-wing while Rodrygo is set to retain his place on the opposite flank. The attack will be led by Luka Jovic, starting ahead of Karim Benzema.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Areola; Carvajal, Nacho, Varane, Marcelo; Modric, Valverde, Kroos; Rodrygo, Jovic, Vinicius
- Zaragoza’s Luis Suarez has 14 goals in 23 league appearances this season and is second to Girona’s goal machine Cristhian Stuani in the Segunda Division’s goalscoring charts.
- Zaragoza have won all five of their games in 2020, including a 3-1 upset of La Liga side Mallorca in the previous round of this competition.
- This will be 39th meeting between these two sides, with Zaragoza searching for just their eighth win over Los Blancos in their history.
- Real Madrid are yet to taste a single defeat since October, thanks to Zidane, who has been able to help Los Blancos recover from a stuttering start to the campaign.
- Real Madrid have the best defensive record in La Liga this season. But, they have kept only two clean sheets in their last five competitive matches.
Player to Watch
This could be a hugely important game for Jovic. The Serbian, since arriving from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, has endured a terrible debut campaign in Spain, scoring only one goal in 20 competitive outings. As a result, he has been often frozen out of the starting eleven by Zidane.
Jovic’s underachievements at Real Madrid have also led to him being linked with a move away from Santiago Bernabeu. And with the winter transfer window nearing its completion, this could be an excellent stage for the youngster to showcase his talents as he hopes to secure a loan deal before the windows slams shut.
Zaragoza 0-2 Real Madrid
Zaragoza are unlikely to trouble Real Madrid defensively, who have named a relatively strong squad ahead of this fixture. And while their deep defensive line could provide one or two problems for Los Blancos attackers, the large gap in quality could turn out to be the difference between the two sides. Hence, we are expecting a hard-fought 2-0 win for the visitors.