Real Madrid at virtually full strength against Espanyol

Madrid, Jan 21 (IANS): Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti will not be resting any players as his side return to Cornella El- Prat Stadium to play Espanyol in the first leg of the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey knockout competition Tuesday.

It has been a good few days for Real Madrid who have seen their two main rivals for the Primera Liga title, FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid drop four points each in their last two league games, allowing Madrid to move to within one point of the top of the table, reports Xinhua.

"We were where we want to be," admitted Ancelotti in his pre-game press conference, before remembering his side's 1-0 win in the same ground just over a week ago.

"We need to repeat the league game against Espanyol and try to improve on it if we can, as they could surprise us," he said.

"Espanyol are a tough side who are very intense and they will look to take a lead in the tie. Our aim is not to resolve the tie tomorrow, because it will be decided in the Santiago Bernabeu," he said.

Although he will take his strongest available squad, Ancelotti will make some changes to his starting 11, as Sergio Ramos is a doubt with a slight physical problem, giving Nacho Gonzalez the chance to start in defense.

Meanwhile, Isco could also start in an advanced midfield role after Ancelotti said as much in his conference, hinting that he could give a rest to striker Karim Benzema.

The Espanyol-Real Madrid tie is the first of the four quarter- final clashes and Wednesday will see two more as Barcelona return to play Levante after their 1-1 draw in the Ciudad de Valencia Stadium in the league Sunday evening.


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