Real Madrid’s last home game in the Copa del Rey is a story of pure heartache. A week before the 2nd leg of the semi-final against Barcelona, they went to the Camp Nou for the first time since Julen Lopetegui’s side was destroyed and left without any hope by a merciless Barcelona side. But this time Santiago Solari was in charge and he somehow managed to get a draw from Barcelona after his players put in a great performance. But back at the Bernabéu, it was the same old story. Real Madrid held the fort for a brief moment before getting smashed hard to the point of utter non-existence against their biggest rivals, once again. Luis Suarez vaporized a helpless Real Madrid side and a league defeat followed up soon. Solari was sacked soon after this and Zidane returned. A lot has changed in Real Madrid since then but most importantly at the moment, we have Copa del Rey fixture at the Bernabéu to bury the ghosts of the past. Real Madrid have never gone past the quarter-final stage of the Copa del Rey under Zidane and this is a chance against Real Sociedad that they would not want to miss. Welcome to our match preview.
A cavalry of prodigies
Willian Jose, Diego Llorente, Asier Illaramendi and Martin Ødegaard were all Real Madrid’s boys at some point in their careers. Ødegaard is only on loan at La Real and despite his claims of staying another year at the Anoeta, it will be extremely difficult to keep him away from the Bernabéu next season after his stellar performances in Spain this season. Llorente and Illarramendi are missing the game but Willian Jose will be Sociedad’s main man in offense against Los Blancos. All in all, there is a slight touch of a homecoming for these lads when the two teams will lock horns in the one-legged Copa del Rey quarter-final.
It’s been almost three months and still no sign of Eden Hazard. He is still not match-fit and Zidane has left him out keeping in mind, the key fixtures that Real Madrid have later in the month. Bale is also left out while Casemiro, Carvajal, and Lucas are out due to physical issues. Here’s Zidane’s 19-man squad:
Alphonse Areola, Thibaut Courtois, Diego Altube, Éder Militão, Sergio Ramos, Raphael Varane, Nacho Fernandez, Marcelo, Ferland Mendy, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Fede Valverde, James Rodriguez, Isco, Karim Benzema, Luka Jović, Brahim, Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo.
Sociedad manager Imanol has named his 18-man traveling squad and here’s the full list:
Remiro, Zaldua, Zubeldia, Artiz, Portu, Merino, Willian Jose, Oyarzabal, Aihen, Moya, Guevara, Gorosabel, Isak, Monreal, Ødegaard, Barrenetxea, Normand.
What to Expect
Casemiro’s absence in this game could be a worrying sign for Real Madrid. The Copa del Rey is the shortest way for Sociedad to clinch any kind of silverware and they will be at their absolute top level in this knock-out tie. Zidane’s team would have to be proactive and positive in their approach from minute ‘1’ of the game. To enable this atmosphere, Zidane has the arsenal to deploy a 4-3-3 formation. Valverde will, of course, deputize for Casemrio again and Kroos will be the main anchor. Now, Zidane can go with Modric or James for the other slot but it is going to be an interesting selection to look out for. Nacho will cover for Carvajal at right-back and Marcelo is expected to start this one ahead of Mendy while Areola will be under the goal.
Real Madrid’s approach could be somewhat predictable in this one as they will heavily rely on the flanks and the empty half spaces around them. Intelligent movement in the half-spaces would be the key to create chances. Benzema could be supported by the two young Brazilian wingers on the night but the Frenchman will drop deep to build-up the play as well.
Real Sociedad’s approach will not be drastically different than Real Madrid’s scheme. They might be missing some key names themselves but keeping tabs on Ødegaard will be very important for Real Madrid. Oyarzabal and Portu will look to stretch the field on the two wings as they will have the ever so dangerous Willian Jose, lurking inside the Real Madrid box. Ødegaard’s game reading and eye for the key passes between the lines can cause some real damage to Los Blancos. He has become an excellent set-piece taker as well which is a trait that can never be discarded. Especially, in a knock-out cup tie of this stature.
Real Madrid: W W W W W
Real Sociedad: L W W W L
Head to Head
Last 18 matches
Real Madrid: 14
Real Sociedad: 3
Real Madrid: Areola; Nacho, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Valverde, Kroos, James; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Real Sociedad: Remiro; Gorosabel, Normand, Zubeldia, Munoz; Geuvara, Portu, Merino, Ødegaard, Oyarzabal; Willian Jose.
Players to Watch
Vinicius Jr, Real Madrid
The Brazilian has been in excellent touch in his last few outings for Real Madrid.
Martin Ødegaard, Real Sociedad
Ødegaard is a generational talent and the hype surrounding him is totally worth it.
Juan Martinez Munuera.
“I like Ødegaard. I don’t think about the future. He’s our player and we’re happy with the way he’s playing for Real Sociedad. Tomorrow he will be on the opposite team and will try to do well for Real Sociedad. We must think about our own game and what we are going to do.” – Zidane on Ødegaard.
“It is a difficult challenge. But, yes, we are capable of winning” – Imanol Alguacil Barrenetxea.