Real Madrid will be hoping for a swift return to winning ways when they take on minnows Alcoyano in the third round of the 2021/22 Copa del Rey this midweek.

Real Madrid will begin their journey in the 2021/22 Copa del Rey when they face off against Alcoyano in the third round of the competition at Estadio El Collao on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid started the new year on a disappointing note, falling to a 1-0 defeat to Getafe in La Liga last weekend and will be aiming to bounce back quickly with a strong display in their first cup tie of the campaign. While the competition might not be a top priority for Carlo Ancelotti & co., they will still look to go the distance, having last won the trophy way back in 2013/14.

Alcoyano, meanwhile, have made it to the third round of the competition after easing Badajoz 3-0 in the first round before beating La Liga outfit Levante on a penalty shootout in the preceding stage to set up this humungous tie against Real Madrid. The Primera Division RFEF side will be playing their first game of 2022 on Wednesday and will be hoping to begin the year with a huge upset victory.

Real Madrid were ousted by Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey last year, as the minnows beat their esteemed opponents 2-1 at home in the Round-of-32 stage. They will be hoping to repeat those heroics, while Ancelotti & co. will be looking to avoid a similar fate when the two teams square off this midweek.

Team News & Tactics

Alcoyano

Alcoyano manager Vicente Parras does not have any major absentees for the huge game on Wednesday night. However, Angel Lopez is set to miss out due to suspension. Many players involved in the shock win against Real Madrid last year could be set to start on Wednesday.

42-year-old goalkeeper Jose Juan, who was the hero of the penalty shootout against Levante in the previous round of the Copa del Rey, should get the nod between the sticks against the La Liga leaders. Raul Gonzalez and Primi Ferriz are expected to pair up at the heart of the defence to shield the veteran goalkeeper while Lillo Castellano and Pablo Carbonell take up the full-back slots on the right and left sides, respectively.

Fran Miranda should start in the middle of the park and will likely be paired up with the experienced Juanan Casanova, with the duo likely to be tasked with shackling their Real Madrid counterparts. Right-back Javi Anton could get the nod on the right flank to provide added defensive protection against the onrushing Marcelo. On the left, Angel Sanchez should start and look to offer a counterattacking threat.

Mourad El Ghezouani, who has been Alcoyano’s top scorer in the league competition this season, should lead the line against Real Madrid. He is likely to be paired up with Dani Vega, while 40-year-old club captain Juli is also an option.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Juan; Castellano, Gonzalez, Ferriz, Carbonell; Anton, Miranda, Casanova, Sanchez; Mourad, Vega

Real Madrid

Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is set to rest a host of his regulars for the game, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, star striker Karim Benzema, Luka Modric, Ferland Mendy, and Dani Carvajal have all been not picked in the squad. In addition, Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic are yet to rejoin the team after being in isolation due to Covid.

As Ancelotti has confirmed, Andriy Lunin is set to step into the lineup between the sticks. Lucas Vazquez ought to get the nod at right-back while captain Marcelo will have a rare starting opportunity on the left side, from where he will be looking to provide a regular attacking outlet. Nacho Fernandez and Jesus Vallejo ought to form the centre-back pairing for the visitors.

Toni Kroos and Casemiro are likely to be given a breather as well, with Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga expected to start in the middle of the park along with forgotten man Dani Ceballos who has recovered to full fitness only recently. Isco is also an option for Ancelotti if he needs a more creative presence.

With Benzema and Jovic unavailable, Mariano Diaz becomes the automatic pick in the No. 9 role. Eden Hazard should get an opportunity to prove himself starting on the left flank while teenage prospect Peter Gonzalez could feature on the right. Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes will be called upon from the bench if things do not go according to plans.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lunin; Vazquez, Vallejo, Nacho, Marcelo; Valverde, Camavinga, Ceballos; Peter, Mariano, Hazard

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid are the third-most successful team in Copa del Rey history, having won the trophy 19 times. Only Barcelona (31) and Athletic Bilbao (23) have won it on more occasions.
  • Alcoyano’s best run in Copa del Rey came in the last season when they made it to the Round of 16, where they lost to Athletic Club.
  • Real Madrid and Alcoyano have clashed against each other on 11 previous occasions. Los Blancos have won six of those matches, while the minnows have picked up three victories (D2).
  • Real Madrid last won the Copa del Rey in the 2013/14 season, during Carlo Ancelotti’s first stint as manager at the Santiago Bernabeu.
  • Before their defeat to Getafe over the weekend, Real Madrid were on a 15-game unbeaten run across all competitions.

Player to Watch

Eden Hazard

With no Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior on the night, the onus will be Eden Hazard to lead the Real Madrid attack and get them over the line. The Belgian wing-wizard has endured another torrid campaign so far in the Spanish capital, having failed to find the back of the net even once in 15 matches across all competitions while managing to register just one assist.

Against an Alcoyano team that will be set up to sit deep and frustrate their opponents, Hazard will need to be at his best and pull out all the tricks in his bags to provide the attacking impetus and the verve that Los Blancos will need to open their hosts on Wednesday night.

Prediction

Alcoyano 1-2 Real Madrid

Alcoyano will draw confidence from the fact that they beat Real Madrid at this very stage of the competition last season. Buoyed by the home support, they will back themselves to get a positive result on Wednesday. However, even if there will be plenty of rotation to the side, Real Madrid have too much quality in their ranks. 

It will not be easy, and the third-division side will make a big fight out of it, but Carlo Ancelotti & co. should manage to eke out a victory and make it through to the next round of the cup competition.

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