Cristiano Ronaldo will be given the night off when Real Madrid begin their defense of the Copa del Rey at third-tier outfit Cornellà on Wednesday. Madrid’s first match in the competition since Gareth Bale’s memorable winner against Barcelona in last season’s final has been brought forward due to the European champions’ participation in the FIFA Club World Cup in December.
The visit to Catalonia for the round-of-32 first leg now presents a golden chance for Madrid to get their 10th straight win in all competitions. The run started after a second defeat in their first three league games and has taken them to the verge of qualification for the Champions League knockout phase and within a point of the top of La Liga. A 3-1 victory over Barcelona on Saturday was undoubtedly the most impressive result yet. And just three days removed, there is little surprise that manager Carlo Ancelotti has decided to hand a rest to Ronaldo as well as Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Iker Casillas. The hero of last season’s final, Bale, remains sidelined with injury, with Ancelotti hopeful he will be fit to take on Liverpool next week. Still the Italian is determined to get a positive result in a competition he values highly.
“Last year [winning the Copa del Rey] gave us a lot of confidence,” he said, reports Spanish sports daily AS. “We won the Champions League because we did well in the final of the Copa del Rey.”It is a competition that has given us a lot of success and we have good memories. We will try to do the same again, starting from today. We need to produce a serious match and to continue our winning streak. Also to give minutes to those who have had less to better their physical condition. We can produce a good match.”
Ancelotti has already named his full starting lineup for the clash, with the man just crowned La Liga’s best goalkeeper of last season, Keylor Navas, lining up behind an unfamiliar defense of Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Nacho and Alvaro Arbeloa. Sami Khedira will get his first start of the season alongside Asier Illarramendi, with Isco, James Rodríguez, Javier Hernández, and Clasico star Karim Benzema rounding out the side.
They will take on a Cornellà team that is currently enjoying its first ever season in the effective third-tier Segunda Division B after promotion last term. An illustration of the gulf between the sides is that Cornellà will host Real Madrid at Espanyol’s Power8 Stadium as their regular stadium holds just 1,500.But Ancelotti insists his team won’t take their task lightly.
“We have seen [some of their] matches, but we do not know a lot,” he said. “For them it is the game of their life. For that we should respect them and produce a serious match. The Real Madrid shirt demands responsibility.”
Prediction: It will be a massive night for Cornellà, and, although they come into the contest in a good form, it will also be a huge challenge for them to compete with the might of Real Madrid. Ancelotti’s men have scored goals for fun in their winning run and, while the man who has found the net more than anyone, Ronaldo, will be missing, it is difficult to see anything other than a result that will make the second leg a mere formality.
Cornellà 0-4 Real Madrid
Kickoff time: 3 p.m. EDT
TV Channel: beIN Sports en ESpanol
Live stream: beIN Sports Connect