Real Madrid will look to confirm their place in the Copa del Rey final when they take a 3-0 lead into the second leg of their tie with rivals Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon. After back-to-back defeats in the derby at the Bernabeu, Madrid produced a controlled performance last week to secure a commanding advantage, albeit helped by two own goals.
The result continued the recent fine form of Carlo Ancelotti’s side that has seen them go 24 matches unbeaten in all competitions and move level on points with both Atletico and Barcelona at the top of La Liga.
“We’re doing well because we’re alive in three competitions,” Ancelotti said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “We’re upbeat and eager to do well and that’s pleasing as we are entering the important part of the season.”
As Madrid have hit top gear, Atletico have finally begin to show signs of fatigue catching up to their comparatively thin squad. Following their defeat at the Bernabeu, Diego Simeone’s men crashed to a surprise 2-0 defeat at Almeria that meant they surrendered their three-point advantage at the Primera Division summit.
Atletico’s chances of pulling off a famous comeback against Madrid have been dealt a further blow with a spate of first-team players unavailable. In addition to the injured, David Villa, Filipe Luis, Tiago and Thibaut Courtois, talismanic striker Diego Costa is ruled out through suspension. Still, Simeone is refusing to give up hope.
“We still have the same mindset we have had all season,” he said, reports AS. “We still believe we can win a tie which has become very difficult for us to win in which everyone will need to go our way.”
The first leg was characterized by niggling battles between several players, with one incident in particular -- when Alvaro Arbeloa raked his studs down the Achilles of Costa -- gaining particular attention. Ancelotti, though, does not believe that the events were anything unusual given the rivalry.
“I have already said, matches between two teams from the same city are always more intense than others,” he explained. “There is always more pressure and intensity. Words might be exchanged on the pitch but all we are concerned about is preparing for a game, it’s as simple as that.”
While his counterpart battles injuries and suspensions, Ancelotti will be able to welcome back Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese forward sat out the first match of his three-game La Liga suspension in the 4-2 victory over Villarreal on Saturday. While Ronaldo is sure to come back into the starting lineup, Ancelotti is presented with something of a selection dilemma. Young forward Jese scored for his fourth match in succession against Villarreal, while Gareth Bale scored and provided an assist for one of Karim Benzema’s two goals.
Asked about the likelihood of Jese being left out, Ancelotti emphasized that role that the whole squad plays over the course of a season.
“It’s impossible to talk about who is first choice during the whole season,” he said. “Jese is an important player for this squad -- as is Bale, Cristiano and Benzema. Coaches are lucky in that over the course of the season, there are a lot of games to play.”
Where to watch: The second leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal will kick off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.