Carlo Ancelotti believes Eden Hazard will recover his best form soon after Real Madrid battled past Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey.

Hazard started just his ninth game of 2021-22 in Wednesday's 3-1 victory against the third-tier outfit, who famously beat Madrid in this competition a year ago.

Dani Vega's excellent run and finish cancelled out Eder Militao's opener for Madrid, who were without several first-team regulars including Thibaut Courtois, David Alaba, Dani Carvajal, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema.

Substitutes Marco Asensio and Isco eventually secured a hard-fought win, the former scoring via a deflected effort following Hazard's lay-off before Isco diverted the ball in off goalkeeper Jose Juan.

Hazard, Rodrygo and Mariano Diaz struggled to combine effectively in the Madrid attack, although the Belgium international ended the match with four chances created, at least twice as many as any other player.

Ancelotti felt the game was ill-suited to creative players but remains convinced Hazard can become a key player for Los Blancos despite an underwhelming two and a half years in Spain.

"Players of quality suffered more than the others," Ancelotti said. "He tried, then as a number nine, like Isco, who scored when he came on, and I'm happy for him.

"Hazard, Rodrygo and these players with more quality suffered more than others.

"He needs to have more confidence in one-v-ones, dribbling, shooting, because he has the quality to do that.

"His physical condition is better than a few months ago, and hopefully we'll see him back at his best level soon."

Ancelotti praised his players for surviving a battle at El Collao against a side who eliminated LaLiga strugglers Levante on penalties in the last round after a 3-3 draw.

"We played the game we had to," he said.

"Of course, we suffered [at 1-1]. They levelled the game through a really good individual action, one of quality.

"Afterwards, we didn't lose our heads and we kept playing the game. We couldn't play another game – this is the one we'd prepared.

"We finished them today. It's not our type of game because delivering quality in these types of games isn't possible.

"We stood up to a team who usually play with quality and today they put that aside and they fought. It's what they had to do. I repeat: if you don't fight here, you lose, like we did last year."

Substitutes Marco Asensio and Isco ensured Real Madrid avoided more Copa del Rey embarrassment against Alcoyano as ​the LaLiga leaders battled to a 3-1 victory in the round-of-32 tie.

Madrid were on the end of one of the greatest shocks in Spanish football history 12 months ago when losing to the same third-tier opponents at Estadio El Collao.

Eder Militao gave Madrid the lead late in the first half of Wednesday's clash, just like he did in last year's meeting, only for Dani Vega to hit back in style for the hosts.

But Carlo Ancelotti's side, who were without Karim Benzema, Thibaut Courtois, Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior, regained the lead through Asensio's heavily deflected strike 14 minutes from time before Isco's poked effort went in off goalkeeper Jose Juan to seal progression.

Alcoyano eliminated LaLiga's bottom side Levante in the last round and started strongly against Madrid, with Dani Vega testing stand-in keeper Andriy Lunin early on.

Eduardo Camavinga blocked a goal-bound shot soon after and the lively Vega had a penalty appeal turned down after being sent to the ground by Militao.

The game soon settled down and Madrid edged in front from their first attempt on target, Militao getting in front of Jose Juan to head in Rodrygo's corner.

Madrid never looked truly settled and Vega levelled up the game after driving into the box, cutting back inside past the chasing Casemiro and curling a shot away from Lunin.

But the visitors, whose 15-match unbeaten run was ended by Getafe last weekend, soon woke up and were back in front when Asensio's shot from the edge of the area, set up by Eden Hazard, took a big deflection and left Jose Juan wrong-footed.

Fellow substitute Isco thought he had himself got on the scoresheet two minutes later, but it went down as an own goal as the last touch from his prodded effort came off the veteran keeper.

 

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid's planning for next season was "already done" but did not reveal whether the club have made a fresh bid for Kylian Mbappe.

Paris Saint-Germain frontman Mbappe has entered the final six months of his contract at the Parc des Princes and it is no secret that Madrid want to bring him to Spain.

The 23-year-old was a target for Los Blancos during the last transfer window but recently ruled out leaving PSG in mid-season.

However, Italian agent Giovanni Branchini claimed LaLiga leaders Madrid have offered €50million to sign Mbappe now, less than six months after they reportedly offered up to €200m.

They could hire him as a free agent at the end of the campaign should Mbappe refuse new terms in Paris, but getting the France international through the door now would also be a major coup.

Ancelotti was asked about Branchini's comments in Madrid's news conference on Tuesday, but elected to sidestep the issue.

"Talking about players who are not here does not seem fair to me," said Ancelotti.

"I have a good relationship with Branchini. I prefer not to comment on this."

Mbappe scored a hat-trick in PSG's 4-0 Coupe de France win over Vannes on Monday and has indicated he wants to fight for trophies with Mauricio Pochettino's side this season.

Madrid are looking both short term and long term, and Ancelotti said: "The planning for next season is already done. I would find it unprofessional if a club like Madrid hadn't planned already."

On Wednesday, Madrid face Alcoyano at the Copa del Rey last-32 stage, a year on from being humiliated by the minnows at the tiny Estadio El Collao in Alcoy.

Madrid's then-coach Zinedine Zidane and his players had to swallow a 2-1 defeat last January against the third-tier team, who snatched an extra-time winner while down to 10 men.

Ancelotti said his preparation for the rematch had not involved watching a video nasty of last year's upset.

"I haven't seen last year's game," Ancelotti said. "I know what happened because the players have told me about it. It's still an open wound.

"The players know better than I what happened and what doesn't have to happen tomorrow."

A 1-0 defeat to Getafe on Sunday was a jolt to start the new year for Madrid, and Ancelotti quipped afterwards that it was as though he and his players had taken an extra day of holiday. But it will be down to business for the cup game.

"We are going to take it seriously. We know the difficulties we may have, and I will put the best team possible together," Ancelotti added.

Gareth Bale will be absent, unwell rather than injured, but Ancelotti said the Wales forward could come into the equation for the LaLiga tussle with Valencia on Saturday.

Real Madrid must return to the scene of one of their greatest embarrassments in modern times after being drawn to face Alcoyano again at the last-32 stage of the Copa del Rey.

For a second successive year, Madrid must travel to the tiny Estadio El Collao in Alcoy in their opening match in the competition.

They will be looking to avoid the fate that befell them in January of this year, when then-coach Zinedine Zidane and his players were humiliated after losing 2-1 to the third-tier team, who snatched an extra-time winner while down to 10 men.

Alcoyano booked their place in the last-32 stage this season with a penalty shoot-out win over Levante, and Friday's draw for the next round saw them handed another plum home clash with Madrid.

Now being led by Carlo Ancelotti, Madrid appear to be in a better place than they were in Zidane's final year in charge, having built a substantial lead at the top of LaLiga and won five of their six Champions League group games. The lesson of recent history and hurt may help them too. 

Barcelona must tackle also third-tier side, having been drawn to travel to Andalusian outfit Linares Deportivo, while Atletico Madrid face an unfamiliar local derby as they head to nearby Rayo Majadahonda.

Sevilla, who sit second in LaLiga, will make the trip to face six-time Copa winners Real Zaragoza, who were relegated from LaLiga in 2012-13 and remain in the Segunda Division.

The games will take in midweek from January 4-6, the Spanish FA (RFEF) said.

Zinedine Zidane and Real Madrid found no sympathy on the front pages of the Spanish sports press on Thursday after their shock Copa del Rey exit to third-tier Alcoyano.

The future of coach Zidane is back under the spotlight after the painful extra-time defeat that saw Juanan score in the 115th minute to earn a famous 2-1 victory.

Marca's front page showed Zidane, head bowed, walking away from the scene of one of Madrid's worst cup defeats.

Its headline said: "No one escapes this embarrassment."

Tumbling out to opposition from Segunda Division B was all the more pitiful given Alcoyano had been reduced to 10 men before they snatched their late winner.

In an editorial, Marca's Hugo Cerezo said the loss revealed a "deep crisis" at Madrid and claimed that Zidane's position was at serious risk.

"If he is saved from this, it is a miracle," wrote Cerezo. "His position now hangs by a thread, on the edge of the abyss."

Marca reported elsewhere on its website that Madrid directors hope to avoid making major decisions now and to hang on until the end of the season.

Zidane said after the game that it had been "another painful day" but that he believed the players still backed his leadership.

Having also lost in the semi-finals of the Supercopa to Athletic Bilbao last week, Madrid are having a grim time of it.

AS described Madrid's exit in much the same way as its fellow Madrid-based newspaper Marca, with a headline of "Embarrassment" followed by subheadings of "Second title gone in a week for Los Blancos" and "Zidane is hurt".

The Barcelona-based Mundo Deportivo said the setback "opens another crisis" for Zidane, with its headline of "Humiliation" accompanied by scenes of joy among the Alcoyano players.

Columnist Josep M Artells wrote of "another embarrassment" and said critics would again look to Zidane, adding: "His management is more in question than ever."

Sport, another Barcelona daily operating out of Barcelona, also chose a single-word headline - going with 'Castanazo', a word which can mean great slap or punch.

That was reflected in the words of pundit Cristobal Soria, who on television show El Chiringuito said: "Today is a historic day, we are witnessing the biggest ridicule in the history of Real Madrid."

Zinedine Zidane insisted there was no shame in Real Madrid's shock loss to third-tier side Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey.

Madrid were stunned by the Segunda Division B outfit in the last 32 as Juanan scored a 115th-minute winner on Wednesday.

Jose Solbes had earlier cancelled out Eder Militao's opener and Alcoyano found a winner despite Ramon Lopez's red card in extra time.

But Madrid head coach Zidane dismissed suggestions the defeat was shameful for the LaLiga champions.

"Those are your words. Those words, they do not belong to me," he told a news conference.

"This is football, difficult things because it's true that we play against a Segunda B team and we need to win the match normally, but at the end it hasn't been like that and this does not mean that this is a shame. It can happen and it happens sometimes in a footballer's career and responsibility must be assumed. I completely do.

"We will keep working … another painful day because we don't like to lose and overall for the players, because they just want to win. We won't get crazy now, let's think and keep working."

Excluding the defeat to Cadiz in 2015 for an illegal line-up, Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by a lower-league side for the first time since 2009.

No goalkeeper has made more saves than Jose Juan Figueras (10) in a game against Madrid this season as Zidane's men suffered back-to-back cup losses.

Asked if the players still believed in him, Zidane said: "Yes, I believe so. Then you have to ask them.

"We work, we try and lately we have done good things even though lately a bit less, but apart from the last three or four games, I believe that we have done good things this season.

"Now we have to think on LaLiga and the Champions League and that's it. To focus because things can be done. But if the players are still touched by my message? You have to ask the players. I believe so and we are in the same boat here."

Zinedine Zidane accepted Real Madrid's stunning Copa del Rey exit to third-tier Alcoyano will lead to further speculation over his future, but insisted he remained "very calm" over the situation.

Madrid were knocked out of the competition by lower league opponents for the first time since 2009 despite taking the lead on Wednesday, Eder Militao heading them in front on the stroke of half-time.

However, the reigning top-flight champions in Spain were unable to build on the lead, meaning an 80th-minute equaliser from Jose Solbes forced extra time.

A penalty shoot-out seemed the likely method to settle the last-32 tie, only for Juanan to pop up with a dramatic late winner that will no doubt increase the growing pressure on Zidane.

"When you lose there is always talk, I take responsibility and whatever has to happen will happen," the Madrid boss told the media in his post-match interview. 

"I am very calm. The players wanted to win the game, they try and sometimes different things happen."

Zidane rested some of his regulars but still selected a strong starting XI, while Karim Benzema, Toni Kroos, Marco Asensio and Eden Hazard were all introduced from the bench during proceedings.

The Frenchman could not fault the effort of his players as he accepted blame for the result; Alcoyano finished the game with 10 men too, Ramon Lopez sent off before Juanan's 115th-minute strike.

Madrid finished up having 26 shots - 11 of which were on target - and had 73 per cent of possession, yet still crashed out.

"The players have tried and if we score the second goal it is another match, football is like that," Zidane added after the 2-1 loss.

"The goalkeeper has made two or three saves and we have not scored the second goal, but I take responsibility. We are out."

He added: "This is football, it is very difficult because we played against a Segunda Division B team and we have to win the game, but it has not been like that.

"It can happen, it happens, these are things that happen in a football career. I assume responsibility and we will continue working. We will not go crazy."

Madrid must quickly put the cup result behind them as they continue their LaLiga title defence on Saturday, travelling to Deportivo Alaves.

Real Madrid suffered an embarrassing Copa del Rey exit on Wednesday, letting slip a one-goal lead as they went down 2-1 to Segunda Division B team Alcoyano after extra time. 

Zinedine Zidane's side had won just once in four outings going into the last-32 tie, including falling to a disappointing Supercopa de Espana semi-final exit to eventual winners Athletic Bilbao. 

However, while that result was a setback, Madrid can expect to face a much more severe backlash after being on the wrong end of a famous upset at the tiny Estadio El Collao.

Eder Militao rewarded the visitors' dominance when heading his team in front on the stroke of half-time, yet Madrid failed to build on the centre-back's first goal for the club. 

The hosts defended in stoic fashion to keep the gap down to one before grabbing an unlikely equaliser with 10 minutes remaining, Jose Solbes poking home from close range at a corner.

Alcoyano had Ramon Lopez sent off in the second period of extra time but the 10 men grabbed an unlikely winner through Juanan, who volleyed in Ali Diakite's cross in the 115th minute to seal a famous result.

  

Nacho Fernandez was ruled out of Real Madrid's Copa del Rey game at Alcoyano due to COVID-19 protocols.

Madrid defender Nacho was deemed a close contact of someone who tested positive for coronavirus and was subsequently cut from Zinedine Zidane's 20-man group for the game in Alicante.

The 31-year-old has reportedly tested negative himself but was unable to travel as he awaited the result of a second PCR test.

With Raphael Varane rested and Sergio Ramos absent due to injury, Eder Militao and Victor Chust of Castilla are the only centre-backs left in Zidane's squad.

Madrid did not clarify when Nacho will be able to return to action.

Following their clash with Alcoyano, LaLiga's champions are scheduled to face Deportivo Alaves and Levante in the next 10 days.

Martin Odegaard has been left out of the Real Madrid squad to face Alcoyano in the Copa del Rey, while Luka Modric and Raphael Varane are rested and Sergio Ramos misses out through injury.

Norway international Odegaard has featured just twice for Madrid in all competitions since the start of December, and Wednesday's clash with third-tier Alcoyano appeared to represent a chance for him to receive some rare minutes.

However, the 22-year-old was not included on the 20-man list for the match at El Collao.

Varane and Modric, who have missed just one game each this season, were granted a rest by Zidane, with Castilla duo Victor Chust and Antonio Blanco called up instead.

Ramos played through discomfort experienced in the warm-up during the Supercopa de Espana defeat to Athletic Bilbao last week and did not train with his team-mates on Tuesday.

Rodrygo and Dani Carvajal are also unavailable due to injury.

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