Cristiano Ronaldo and many of Real Madrid’s star names will be given the night off when Real Madrid take a 4-1 lead into their Copa del Rey second leg against minnows Cornellà on Tuesday, but there will be a long-awaited return for young forward Jesé Rodriguez. Madrid are expected to canter into the round of 16 of Spain’s national cup competition after a comfortable win away at the Segunda Division B side at the end of October. And duly, with a busy December ahead, including a trip to Morocco to attempt to add the FIFA Club World Cup to their Champions League grown, manager Carlo Ancelotti has decided to ring the changes in his squad.
Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Iker Casillas, Pepe, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo have all come out of the squad following Saturday’s 2-1 win over Malaga. Still, it will hardly be a scratch lineup, with James Rodríguez, Isco, Keylor Navas, Sami Khedira and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández still likely to be among the starters.
“We are going to make changes,” Ancelotti confirmed at his press conference on Monday, reports Real Madrid’s official website. “Not because the team is tired; they look fine to me and don't have any problems. We played well in Malaga both physically and technically. The players who have featured less need to get a run out. Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Kroos will be rested. Medrán, Khedira, who is in good shape, and [Asier] Illarra[mendi] will start the game.”
Álvaro Medrán, a 20-year-old midfielder, will be making his first start for the club, but it is a 21-year-old on the bench who may well garner most of the attention. Jesé was enjoying a fine debut season in the Real Madrid first team last term and even rivaling record signing Bale for a place in the lineup, before a serious knee injury in March brought an end to his campaign and his hopes of earning a place in Spain’s World Cup squad.
“Jesé will not be in the starting XI, but he is part of the squad and will play the second half or at least a good part of it,” Ancelotti explained. “It is great for us and is a welcome bit of news. He is a quality player and we are delighted that he can play.”
Whatever team Real Madrid fielded, it would take something preposterous for them not to go through, but the club will be especially keen to ensure they win not just the tie but the match. The win over Malaga at the weekend was Madrid’s 16th in a row, breaking their previous club record. Now firmly in their sights will surely be the all-time record of consecutive victories for a Spanish club of 18 -- set by their fiercest rivals Barcelona.
Prediction: It is a testament to the impressive strength of Real Madrid’s squad that they can rest so many top players and still have the possibility of fielding a high quality lineup. It should certainly be good enough to beat a Cornellà team that caused a stir by equalizing early on in the first leg but that were eventually dismissed with something to spare.
Real Madrid 3-0 Cornellà
Kickoff time: 2 p.m. EST
TV channel: BeIN Sports
Live stream: BeIN Sports Connect