The right decision?
As soon as the Real Madrid squad list was announced, there was one glaring omission: Cristiano wasn't included - even just to be with the team on the eve of the game. Zidane didn't mention the decision in his pre-match press conference, although he did talk about Cristiano. "Will Cristiano win The Best?" the coach was asked. Zidane gave the typical, expected reply, but refrained from adding that he won't be in the side that takes on Sevilla this evening. He had trained well, I might add. Madrid will also be without two of their regular starters - Sergio Ramos and Bale, as well as a handful of other big names. And yet Cristiano Ronaldo, who has hit 22 goals against Sevilla - more than he has scored against any other team, has been left out - to rest... The players are only just back from their holidays and the next league game is against Granada at the Bernabéu, but Cristiano will be rested today.
Lack of preparation
It's mind-boggling. Later, I'm sure we will be given an explication, one which will probably contain some kind of reasoning; one would assume that both the players and the coach have agreed to prolong this period of training following the Christamas break - a sort of mini-pre-season of sorts designed to compensate for the lack preparation he had over the summer while he was recovering from the injured sustained at Euro 2016. Cristiano is highly aware that he usually ends the season carrying some kind of fitness problem, and he's keen to avoid that this year. Now it seems that he will be pacing himself more than before. Anyway, that Zidane won't even have him in reserve on the bench for the Cup meeting with Sevilla, is a startlingly brave decision.
Sampaoli will likely be relieved that his side won't have to deal with Cristiano but Madrid still pack a punch in attack with Benzema, Morata, Mariano... Cristiano's absence is still an eye-opener gives off the impression that Madrid don't view the Copa del Rey with the same interest as LaLiga, which they are desperate to win. They have only won one league out of the last eight. Whatever their intentions, it cannot be denied that Madrid will be weaker for this first leg, one which Sevilla now go into with an extra incentive. After all they are a Cup team, they will be playing the return at home and they are in the form of their lives, sitting third in the league standings. This is a huge tie, and a great opportunity for them...