La Liga champions Real Madrid will welcome arch-rivals Atletico Madrid to the Santiago Bernabeu on Thursday night with a spot in the final four of the Copa del Rey on offer.
Games between the capital sides have proven to be close-fought affairs with plenty of drama, and more can be expected this time around. Both teams have a combined 29 crowns in the competition and are amongst the more successful sides in the trophy’s history.
However, it has now been ten years since a side from the Spanish capital laid claim to the Copa del Rey. Real Madrid won the competition under Carlo Ancelotti in 2013/14, while Atletico Madrid went all the way the previous season in 2012/13.
In fact, neither club have made the final since their respective wins, and there is no better time than now to break that hoodoo. Despite the likelihood of the match being a tense affair, one could argue that Real Madrid have bigger fish to fry.
The Spanish champions are alive and kicking in the title race in La Liga and will face off against Liverpool in the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League. The Copa del Rey does not have priority status, unlike Atletico Madrid, whose best shot at silverware this season lies in the competition.
Diego Simeone’s side are enjoying a season to forget, and a successful cup run could be the impetus they need to turn things around. Having experienced defeat in the first Madrid derby this season in La Liga, the Argentine will be keen to set the record straight.
The last time the two teams faced off in the competition was in the Last 16 in the 2014/15 season. Real, the then defending champions were knocked out by Atletico over two legs. The Rojiblancos will hope that history repeats itself, this time at the venue of their previous Copa del Rey triumph against the same opponent from the 2012/13 final. The Hard Tackle looks at how both sides could line up on the night and what tactics they might employ.
Los Blancos fought back from two goals down in the previous round against Villarreal and showed real character on the night. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have lacked their usual dominance post the World Cup hiatus but remains a formidable outfit, especially at home.
Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last ten games at the Santiago Bernabeu and remain difficult to displace at home. However, they have maintained just one clean sheet in the run and can get caught out if they are tardy.
More so, the home side also has several injury concerns to contend with. Aurelien Tchouameni, Eden Hazard, Dani Carvajal and Lucas Vazquez are all unavailable on the night. It is not all doom and gloom as David Alaba has recovered from a calf issue and should start on the night.
Ancelotti is expected to deck out his side in a 4-3-3 formation, with Thibaut Courtois in between the sticks. Nacho Fernandez should occupy the right-back spot, with Ferland Mendy starting on the opposite flank. Antonio Rudiger is expected to partner with the fit-again Alaba at the heart of the defence.
Eduardo Camavinga should start at the tip of the midfield three, with veterans Toni Kroos and Luka Modric pulling the strings on either side. As long as the young Frenchman does not get overwhelmed by Atletico’s physical approach, Kroos and Modric can focus their attention on wreaking havoc further up the field.
Federico Valverde and Vinicius Jr. will provide width upfront, with Karim Benzema leading the attack. Brazilian attacker Rodrygo has often made a difference for the Spanish champions off the bench and will offer Ancelotti a game-changing option if need be.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Nacho, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius Jr.
Diego Simeone will welcome back the defensive duo of Stefan Savic and Sergio Reguilon, who have both served their suspensions in the previous round. However, Uruguayan international Jose Gimenez is still struggling with a muscle issue and is unlikely to be risked.
January signing Memphis Depay made his debut against Real Valladolid at the weekend and is in contention to make his first start in Atletico colours. The Dutchman will bring in a semblance of dynamism to an Atletico side that has looked largely toothless this season.
We are ready ❤️🤍 pic.twitter.com/pxZO25ILiF
— Atlético de Madrid (@atletienglish) January 25, 2023
Atletico are likely to step out in a 4-4-2 formation that can crowd the midfield and cut off passing lanes. Jan Oblak should start in goal behind the rigid back four of Nahuel Molina, Savic, Mario Hermoso and Reinildo Mandava.
Marcos Llorente and Yannick Carrasco will provide the impetus on the wings in midfield, with World Cup winner Rodrigo De Paul and Geoffrey Kondogbia holding the fort in the middle of the park. The former duo will also be tasked with holding the fort out wide in case the Atletico back four have to go narrow.
Antoine Griezmann will lead the line alongside Depay, who will be making his full debut. With Alaba having just returned from an injury, the Atletico duo could find some guy should they try to attack him while on the ball.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Oblak; Molina, Savic, Hermoso, Reinildo; Llorente, De Paul, Kondogbia, Carrasco; Griezmann, Depay
Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid have won the Copa del Rey a combined 29 times. Real have won the cup 19 times, with Atletico coming out on top on ten occasions.
This will be the 231st Madrid Derby between both sides. Real hold the edge with 109 wins, while Atletico are a distant second with 54 triumphs. The rest have ended in draws.
Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last ten games at home but have kept just one clean sheet in the run.
Both teams have faced off in the Copa del Rey 23 times so far with Real winning ten times and Atletico eight times.
The last time Atletico defeated Real Madrid in the Quarter-final stage was in 1949/50 when they triumphed 1-0 at home. They, however, lost the return leg 6-3 and were knocked out 6-4 on aggregate.
New journey has started! pic.twitter.com/759HlWS6IG
— Memphis Depay (@Memphis) January 23, 2023
The Dutchman was a much-needed addition to a rather uninspiring Atletico Madrid attacking lineup. His arrival will offer the visitors another direct threat up front, taking the pressure off Antoine Griezmann, who has been shouldering the side’s burdens of late.
Depay is also in need of a makeover following a fall from favour at Barcelona. Hurting Real on his full debut for Atletico will be an excellent way for the 28-year-old to endear himself to the new fanbase. It could also add as a catalyst for a successful second innings in La Liga.
Atletico Madrid arrive for the game on the back of two wins and renewed confidence. However, a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu is no mean feat, let alone for the Madrid derby. Carlo Ancelotti’s side have looked defensively shaky of late and are unlikely to have a comfortable night out. However, Real’s match winners should prove to be the difference on the night in a narrow win.