Real Madrid host Girona in the quarter final of the Copa del Rey on Thursday night, with Los Blancos looking for a positive result to take into the second leg as they search for silverware in what has been a disappointing season thus far.
Another incentive for Madrid ahead of the cup tie will be that bitter rivals Barcelona have lifted the cup in each of the last four seasons, giving Santiago Solari's side a chance to end that period of dominance with a successful campaign.
Girona between Real and a place in the semi finals, with the Catalan club already registering one giant killing on the way to the quarters after beating Atletico Madrid on away goals in the round of 16.
Here is 90min's preview of the first leg of the quarter final.
Where to Watch
|When Is Kick Off?||Thursday 24 January|
|What Time Is Kick Off?||20.30 (BST)|
|Where Is It Played?||Santiago Bernabeu|
|TV Channel/Live Stream?||BeIN Sports|
Los Blancos will hope to welcome back Germany international midfielder Toni Kroos and 23-year-old Spaniard Marcos Llorente on Thursday, with both having not played a game since the turn of the new year with groin injuries.
There are still several players who remain doubtful for the game. Mariano Diaz and Marco Asensio have both resumed first team training, however it is not clear whether they'll have the desired fitness levels for Thursday's clash.
Welsh attacker Gareth Bale is also back in training, but the Girona match may come too soon.
Girona will be boosted by the return of top goalscorer Cristhian Stuani, after the Uruguayan striker served a suspension in the team's 3-2 defeat to Real Betis on Sunday.
Manchester City loanee Patrick Roberts is still missing with a hamstring injury for Girona, with the attacker not expected to return until February.
|Real Madrid||Courtois; Odriozola, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo, Valverde, Ceballos, Diaz, Isco, Vinicius, Benzema.|
|Girona||Iraizoz; Ramalho, Bernardo, Muniesa, D Luiz, Granell, Porro, Fernandez, A Garcia, Stuani, Doumbia.|
Head to Head Record
There's far from a vast history of matches between Real Madrid and Girona, although when the two sides have faced off the games have proved to be very entertaining affairs, with the three meetings producing 17 goals.
The Catalan side took a surprise victory in the first meeting in October 2017, winning the game 2-1 at Estadi Montilivi. Isco opened the scoring for Real in the first half, before Stuani and Portu turned the game around to earn the then La Liga first-timers a historic victory.
The other two matches have gone as you would expect, with Real Madrid successful in both. The second game between the two last season saw Real avenge their shock defeat by thrashing Girona 6-3 at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.
Girona were also on the end of some more punishment when Madrid visited them on the second matchday of the current La Liga season, Julen Lopetegui leading Real to a 4-1 away win.
Santiago Solari has seen a slight resurgence from his Real Madrid team but they are still far from their imperious best. They were defeated in their last Copa del Rey game away at Leganes, but were already 3-0 up going into the tie due to their performance in the home leg.
They will hope that their victory against Sevilla in La Liga at the weekend can set the foundations for a good run of form and consistency, which Madrid will need to help turnaround their uncharacteristically slow start to their season.
Before their defeat to Real Betis at the weekend, Girona had seen their last five games end in stalemates.However, that run of games did also include their spectacular 3-3 draw at the Wanda Metropolitano against Atletico Madrid which saw them progress to this stage.
Here's how each team has fared in their last five matches:
|Real Madrid 2-0 Sevilla (19/1)||Real Betis 3-2 Girona (20/1)|
|Leganes 1-0 Real Madrid (16/1)||Atletico Madrid 3-3 Girona (16/1)|
|Real Betis 1-2 Real Madrid (13/1)||Girona 1-1 Alaves (12/1)|
|Real Madrid 3-0 Leganes (9/1)||Girona 1-1 Atletico Madrid (9/1)|
|Real Madrid 0-2 Real Sociedad (6/1)||Levante 2-2 Girona (4/1)|
The result of this game will hugely depend on Real Madrid and Girona's attitude towards the cup fixture. Real Madrid are involved in a battle for Champions League qualification and Girona are in mid-table but only four points clear of the relegation zone.
Real will likely rest players and Girona will go for it, and why not, it is a great opportunity for them to reach the latter stages of a cup competition. Real will win it, but only just.