Gonzalo Verdu sent Elche ahead in the 103rd minute of Thursday’s Copa del Rey contest at Estadio Manuel Martinez Valero, but Isco levelled the scores five minutes later before Eden Hazard came up with the winner to send Carlo Ancelotti’s side into the quarter-finals of the competition. Los Blancos have now won each of their last five games in all competitions, including a 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the Spanish Super Cup final last weekend, while their last league match on January 8 ended in a 4-1 home success over Valencia.
A total of 49 points from 21 matches has left Real Madrid top of the table, four points clear of second-placed Sevilla, while they are 16 points ahead of the reigning champions Atletico Madrid and 17 clear of Barcelona, with neither side able to launch a title challenge this term. Having already won the Spanish Super Cup, Los Blancos will be targeting a clean sweep in La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey, and it is vital that they put another three points on the board this weekend ahead of their return to action against Granada on February 6.
Real Madrid have won seven and drawn three of their 10 home league matches this season, while Elche have collected just eight points from their 11 games on their travels; Ancelotti’s side also ran out 2-1 winners when the pair locked horns in the reverse game back in October. Elche entered Thursday’s clash with Real Madrid off the back of three straight wins in all competitions, including their last two against Espanyol and Villarreal in Spain’s top flight.
Francisco’s side will have been boosted by their performance against Los Blancos in the Copa del Rey, while their recent victories in the league have moved them up into 15th spot in the table, now five points clear of the relegation zone at a key stage of the campaign. Elche finished 17th in La Liga last term, just two points above the relegation zone, and they are bidding to make it back-to-back seasons at this level of football for the first time since 2015.
Los Franjiverdes will certainly be the underdogs as they head to the Spanish capital on Sunday, but the recent meetings between the two sides have been close encounters, with Real Madrid only winning 2-1 in their last three matches, while Elche held Los Blancos to a draw in the league back in October 2020. Real Madrid will again be without the services of Marco Asensio and Mariano Diaz through injury, but Dani Carvajal could potentially be available, having recently been absent due to a positive COVID-19 test.
Eder Militao is back from a suspension and will come into the starting side, while Thibaut Courtois, Ferland Mendy, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Karim Benzema will also return to the first XI following Thursday’s Copa del Rey encounter with their opponents this weekend.
Hazard and Isco came off the bench to score last time out, but it seems likely that Rodrygo will feature alongside Benzema and Vinicius Junior in the final third of the field, while Ancelotti will again send his first-choice midfield three onto the field for the league fixture. As for Elche, Josema, Javier Pastore, Pablo Piatti, Helibelton Palacios and Kiko Casilla remain doubts following recent positive COVID-19 tests.
Meanwhile, Enzo Roco is still out with a muscular problem, but the visitors did not pick up any fresh concerns in Thursday’s Copa del Rey contest. There will be changes to the side that lined up in the cup, though, with Tete Morente, Pere Milla, Verdu and Edgar Badia among those in line to return to the starting XI in La Liga.
NAME: Real Madrid – Elche CF
DATE: 23 Jan 2022
TIME: 15:15 UTC
VENUE: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain
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