Real Madrid visit Barcelona to take on Espanyol at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat in the first leg of their Copa Del Rey quarterfinal tie on Tuesday night.
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The Los Blancos will be buoyant heading into this game, after La Liga leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid suffered draws in their respective matches at the weekend, reducing the gap between themselves and Carlo Ancelotti's side to just one point, heating up the tile race.
"They played each other and we made up two points then. Then, neither of them won yesterday because we are playing in a very competitive league and all matches are difficult to win. You can't always win. It happened with us against Osasuna. A lot of the credit for having cut the gap goes to the team because they have kept fighting in the competition. We improved after the match with Barcelona. We are where we wanted to be when the season started. We are in with a shout in all competitions and are really keen to do well," Ancelotti pointed out in his pre-match press conference.
Real have won all six of its games played in 2014 and are the only La Liga side to do so. However, the Italian tactician stressed there is no room for complacency for Real even in the Copa games and insisted Espanyol are a strong side. The two clubs had met each other at the Cornella-El Prat in La Liga last month; a match that the Meringues won 1-0, thanks to a headed goal by centre-back Pepe.
"Espanyol are a good team and are very well organised. They are a physically strong team and there will be a high intensity in the match. They will do everything to try to win and getting a good result in the first leg would make their job easier. We have to play well. I was happy with how we did against them in La Liga. We have to play like that again, or better if possible," the managed added.
Espanyol, on the other hand, are eighth in the league table, way below the race for the European spots but well clear of the relegation battle. The club has just stemmed a run of three consecutive defeats at the start of the year with back-to-back wins over AD Alcorcon and Celta Vigo last week.
The Periquitos are starting to find some momentum and will be delighted to welcome manager Javier Aguirre back to the touchline after the Mexican completed a four-match ban for insulting the referees in the game against Osasuna earlier this year.
Espanyol: Out - David Lopez (hamstring)
Real: Out - Sami Khedira (knee), Raphael Varane (knee), Fabio Coentrao (suspended); Doubt - Sergio Ramos (knee)
Expected lineups: Espanyol: Casilla, Lopez, Colotto, Moreno, Fuentes, Rodriguez, Torje, Sanchez, Fernandez, Stuani, Cordoba.
Real: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pepe, Nacho, Marcelo, Illarramendi, Modric, di Maria, Isco, Ronaldo, Jese
Prediction: 3-1 to Madrid