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Essien-Varane-Albiol-Arbeloa tipped to start against Barça

The only other alternative open to José Mourinho is to field Marcelo but the full-back has been underperforming since his return to the side.


Essien-Varane-Albiol-Arbeloa tipped to start against Barça

Real Madrid will go into Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final with numerous absentees in defence. José Mourinho's side will take on Cup holders Barcelona without their first choice goalkeeper Iker Casillas and with Sergio Ramos and Fabio Coentrao both suspended. Central defender Pepe meanwhile, is still recovering from an operation on his right ankle and is aiming to return for the Champions League Round of 16 first leg tie against Manchester United in mid-February.

That leaves Mourinho with few options to confect his back four against the Catalans. Marcelo failed to impress in his most recent outing against Valencia and so the most probable outcome would be to field Essien at right-back, Varane and Albiol as the central defensive pair and Arbeloa at the left-back and although Ricardo Carvalho could figure, his lack of pace might be too great a risk to take against the pace of Barça's forward line.

If Marcelo is able to convince the coach over the next two days, he could dislodge Arbeloa who would in turn return to the opposite flank with Varane and Albiol in the centre-back positions. That would allow Essien to hypothetically occupy the sweeper's role behind midfield pivot, Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira. The coach may even be tempted to rest a number of his players in Sunday's midday meeting with Getafe as not to run the risk of more injury problems ahead of the Barça game.

Estadísticas AS.com