Real Madrid will gunning for their fifth consecutive win in all competitions when they take on Elche CF in Copa Del Rey on Thursday.
Fresh from their Supercopa de Espana triumph against Athletic Bilbao, Real Madrid set their sights on another cup competition this week, as they take on Elche CF in the Copa Del Rey Round of 16.
The Spanish giants have been in imperious form in domestic competitions this season. In Laliga, they are comprehensively leading the table by five points over a spirited Sevilla, whereas Carlo Ancelotti secured his first trophy during his second spell in charge of the club when the team secured a victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Supercup.
Historically, Copa Del Rey has been a major hurdle for Los Blancos. They haven’t won the competition since the 2013/14 campaign and were knocked out by Alcoyano in the third round last season. This time around, Ancelotti’s men are faring rather well, exacting revenge on Alcoyano to secure a place in the Round of 16.
They will be up against an Elche side that has received much more exposure to Copa Del Rey this season. While struggling in the league, the Valencian outfit beat SD Leioa, Unionistas CF and UD Almeria on their route to Round of 16. Elche haven’t progressed past the Round of 16 since the 1968/69 campaign when they had reached the final.
However, with Real Madrid coming back from a gruelling trip to the Middle East, Francisco Rodriguez’s men will be gunning for a major cup upset that should boost their confidence ahead of a league encounter against the same opposition later this weekend.
Team News & Tactics
Elche head coach Francisco Rodriguez has largely switched between a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-3-1 formation this season. Given Real Madrid’s quality and free-scoring form, we are expecting a traditional 4-4-2 with two centre forwards in Javier Pastore and Pere Milla spearheading the frontline.
While Milla should operate as an out and out number nine, Pastore might be given a bit more positional freedom. He can drop back to form a situational 4-2-3-1 or join Milla to form the front two. Either way, his combination play with the wide attackers in Pablo Piatti and Josan, with Rodriguez likely to ring in the changes ahead of the league encounter on the weekend.
In midfield, Omar Mascarell and Raul Guti are naturally the first-team regulars. However, on Thursday, we can expect Ivan Marcone to receive a rare starting opportunity alongside Gerard Gumbau, as the two look to form a solid partnership in the middle of the park and attempt to break up Real Madrid’s build-up play.
Defensively, Rodriguez might not opt for a major shuffle, with Gonzalo Verdu and Diego Gonzalez tipped to maintain their place at the heart of the Elche defence. Antonio Barragan is also likely to continue at right-back, although there might be a change on the opposite flank, with Josema replacing Johan Mojica, completing the back four that will look to provide cover for third-choice goalkeeper Axel Werner in goal.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Werner; Barragan, Verdu, Gonzalez, Josema; Josan, Marcone, Gumbau, Piatti; Pastore, Milla
Carlo Ancelotti will be wary of risking his key players after a long trip from the Middle East. To that end, we are expecting some major changes to the team that faced Bilbao in the Supercup final.
Starting in goal, Thibaut Courtois could make way for Andriy Lunin, but with doubts over the fitness of Dani Carvajal, Lucas Vazquez remains the only option at right-back. Ancelotti will be forced to make one change in central defence as well, with the suspended Eder Militao making way for Nacho, whereas the experienced Marcelo is hoping for a rare start at left-back ahead of Ferland Mendy.
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In midfield, there have been a lot of stress and responsibility on the shoulders of the reliable trifecta of Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro. Given the important league encounter on the weekend, Ancelotti might look to provide a breather to at least two of them, with Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde tipped to replace Casemiro and Modric.
Camavinga is expected to occupy Casemiro’s position at holding midfield. His ability to read the game and bring the ball out from defence could be invaluable for Real Madrid’s build-up. Meanwhile, his young midfield partner Federico Valverde will be tasked with the responsibility of making driving runs forward and utilising his box to box qualities to good effect.
And finally, in the attacking department, Ancelotti might be tempted to opt for the front three of Karim Benzema, Vinicius Jr. and Rodrygo Goes that has been performing so well this season. However, Benzema is set to be rested, whereas Hazard is also likely to come in for Vinicius in a rotated attack that will look to break through the lines of the opposition defence.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Lunin; Vazquez, Nacho, Alaba, Marcelo; Valverde, Camavinga, Kroos; Rodrygo, Jovic, Hazard
- Since 1993, Real Madrid have won Copa Del Rey only twice, and none during the first decade of the new millennium.
- Real Madrid’s last Copa Del Rey triumph, though, came under the leadership of Carlo Ancelotti in the 2013/14 campaign.
- Elche CF have never won the competition. But they had the final in the 1968/69 season, only to be beaten by Athletic Bilbao.
- Real Madrid (19) are third in the all-time list of Copa Del Rey champions, behind Barcelona (31) and Athletic Bilbao (24).
- Elche CF last reached the Round of 16 stage in Copa Del Rey back in the 2014/15 season, when they were knocked out by FC Barcelona.
Player to Watch
Eden Hazard has been one of the biggest underperformers in Europe since joining Real Madrid in 2019. In his ongoing three year spell at the club, the winger has netted only five goals in 59 competitive appearances. His lack of form and injuries have now pushed him behind Rodrygo, Vinicius and even Marco Asensio in the pecking order this season.
Despite being fit for the most part, Hazard has only earned six starts in the league so far and is yet to score a single goal in any of the competitions. He will look to change that on Thursday when Real Madrid take on Elche at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero.
The Belgian’s quick feet, coupled with his ability to take on defenders, could prove to be useful in dealing with Elche’s low defensive line. It will also be interesting to see how he teams up with the likes of Jovic and Rodrygo in this rotated Madrid frontline.
Elche CF 0-2 Real Madrid
Elche have enjoyed a good run of form lately, winning each of their last three competitive matches. They have also exhibited a good brand of football but may have to shift back to a more defensive approach when they take on the mighty Real Madrid side this midweek. This could put them at a disadvantage given the fact that Fran Rodriguez is unlikely to field a full-strength squad.
Although the same applies to Real Madrid, their rotation policy makes the team more proactive due to the presence of younger stars like Valverde, Jovic, Rodrygo and Camavinga. As such, we expect the visitors to stroll through to a win and secure their place in the quarterfinal of the Copa Del Rey.