Clubs, Fuenlabrada, Real Madrid, Spanish Copa del Rey, Story


Zinedine Zidane humbly downplays his tactical expertise as a manager after winning FIFA’s best coach of the year award.

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has rested key players including Cristiano Ronaldo, Toni Kroos and Sergio Ramos for Thursday evening’s Copa del Rey round-of-32 first leg at third-tier Fuenlabrada.

Ronaldo gets the evening off while senior stars Raphael Varane, Marcelo, Luka Modric, Isco and Karim Benzema have also been excused the short trip to the Spanish capital’s suburbs.

Several younger members of the senior squad will get the chance to impress, with Jesus Vallejo, Borja Mayoral, Theo Hernandez, Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos, Achraf Hakimi and Marcos Llorente all set to start at Fuenlabrada’s Estadio Fernando Torres.

Castilla players Manu Hernando, Luis Miguel Quezada, Cristo Gonzalez and Franchu Feuillassier could get a chance to impress from the bench.

Madrid have slipped up on occasion in the Copa in recent years, most famously when going out to neighbours Alcorcon in 2009, but the two-leg format means they have the security of the second leg at the Bernabeu in late November.

At this stage of the competition last season, Madrid eased past La Cultural Leonesa 13-2 on aggregate, with James Rodriguez, now on loan at Bayern Munich, and Zidane’s son Enzo, now at Alaves, among the scorers in the return game.

Gareth Bale is still unavailable due to injury, with Zidane saying at Wednesday’s news conference that he could not yet give a date for the Wales international’s return.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @dermotmcorrigan



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