The Copa del Rey returns this week with the start of the Round of 16, featuring the best teams in Spanish soccer looking to book a place in the quarterfinal stage. Real Madrid will face Leganés on Wednesday night in the Spanish capital, in what will be a key first leg for the reigning Champions League winners.
This has definitely not been a dream season for Los Blancos. The loss of Cristiano Ronaldo has been a lot more painful than expected, and Madrid just haven’t been able to find any type of consistency, both in results and performances. Their only highlight this season so far was winning the Club World Cup, but that’s hardly a trophy they value if things continue to go poorly in the other competitions.
The La Liga title is almost out of the question for Madrid as they stand ten points of leaders Barcelona, so the Copa del Rey is the only realistic option to win a domestic trophy. They have a good opponent in Leganés, but they are massive favorites to advance against a team that started the season well but hasn’t won a game in over a month.
Madrid coach Santiago Solari is expected to make some changes to his usual team, which will give us the chance to watch exciting young talents such as Brazilian Vinicius Junior, who has played well in his limited minutes so far but should get many more chances in this competition.
While Solari likely would prefer to field the strongest squad possible, the transfer rumors of some key veterans – such as Gareth Bale and Luka Modric – could spell a slightly weakened teamsheet. Real need a big win to establish a winning way to start the year, and they hope that Wednesday is the beginning of a glorious road in the Cup.