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Madrid awaits Benzema and Vinicius for Copa quarter-finals

MADRID ( Associated Press) – Real Madrid will have to wait until the last minute to know whether Vinicius Jr and Karim Benzema will be in a position to play in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals against Athletic Bilbao on Thursday.

Benzema is recovering from a muscle injury and Vinicius is among the players to return from international duty just a day before the match at the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao.

Vinicius will be accompanied by Brazilians Rodrigo and Casemiro on Wednesday and Uruguay’s Federico Valverde is expected to return the same day. Eder Militao was prematurely back after playing only one game with Brazil. The Brazilians will host Paraguay in the South American qualifying on Tuesday, while Uruguay will host Venezuela.

Rayo Vallecano, who hosts Mallorca in another Copa quarter-final on Wednesday, will likely be without Colombian striker Radamel Falcao as his team plays against Argentina on Tuesday.

Among the missing players for Real Betis in Thursday’s quarter-final at Real Sociedad will be Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who was injured in his national team’s game against Argentina.

Wednesday’s other quarterfinal is between Valencia and Cadiz. Hosts Valencia would like to make a comeback in the semi-finals after a two-year absence. Cádiz made only the last four in the 1990 Copa.

Madrid, seeking their first Copa trophy since 2013–14, has been followed by Benzema and Vinicius throughout the season. In the second half of the team’s 2–2 draw against Elche in the Spanish league before the international break, the team’s leading striker Benzema had to be replaced due to a muscle injury on his left leg. The injury was not serious but the French striker was yet to practice with his teammates this week.

Madrid will also be without left backs Ferland Mendy, who is injured, and Marcelo, who is suspended.

Madrid and Athletic face off for the fourth time in two months. Madrid defeated Athletic in the final of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia last month, and also twice defeated the Basque Country’s rival in Spanish league matches in December.

Athletic overtook Barcelona in the Round of 16 and finished runner-up to the Catalan club in last year’s Copa final. This previous final was lost to Basque Country rivals Real Sociedad. Its last title in the competition came in 1984.

Mallorca was a surprise Copa champion in 2003 and also reached the semi-finals in 2009. Rayo is playing in the last eight for the first time since 2002. Betis was a semi-finalist in 2018–19, losing to eventual champions Valencia.

The quarterfinals are played in single-elimination games.

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More Associated Press Soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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