Madrid derby attraction in Copa del Rey

Madrid:  Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid go head-to-head in the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium on Friday (1:30am IST) for a place in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey knockout tournament.

The Madrid derby sees Real Madrid return to their home ground for the first time since November 10 — a total of 77 days — and the return has already created some controversy, with the club sending just 334 tickets to Atletico for the match, reports Xinhua news agency.

Real Madrid go into the game after winning 2-0 away to Athletic Club Bilbao on Sunday, in a game where their effectiveness in attack was the difference against a rival that controlled much of the ball.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti is likely to bring Luka Modric and Toni Kroos back into his starting 11 for the game, although injuries to David Alaba and Dani Carvajal mean Nacho Fernandez and Ferland Mendy will continue as full backs.

Atletico travel across town after a comfortable 3-0 win at home over Valladolid, in which Antoine Griezmann again highlighted his excellent form, and Memphis Depay could be in line for his first start after signing from FC Barcelona.

Stefan Savic is also back after missing out at the weekend through suspension and he will partner Mario Hermoso in central defense.

Friday’s (12:30am IST) second quarterfinal sees Valencia host Athletic Club Bilbao in what is a repeat of last-season’s semifinal, which Valencia won 2-1 on aggregate after drawing 1-1 in Bilbao and winning 1-0 in front of their fans.

Valencia were held to a 2-2 draw at home to Almeria on Monday night and remain in a delicate situation in La Liga, with coach Gennaro Gattuso unhappy at the failure to make any signings so far in the transfer window.

Athletic have struggled to turn possession into clear chances and they travel after losing to Madrid and amid stories of interest in winger Nico Williams from the Premier League.

The Spain international has reportedly rejected an offer from Aston Villa, and Athletic are working hard to convince him to sign a new contract that would increase his buyout clause from the current 50 million euros.

–IANS

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