Real Madrid will take on bitter rivals Barcelona in the El Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu this Sunday, in what could be a season-defining clash for both the sides in the Spanish La Liga.
Los Galacticos are at the top of the league standings, three points ahead of their weekend’s opponents, despite having played a game less. And a positive result on Sunday could mean they can establish a stranglehold at the top of the table.
Madrid will be high on confidence after a morale-boosting 4-2 win over German Champions Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League. And they will be hoping to carry the momentum against the Blaugrana.
Gareth Bale is set to miss out after picking up a calf problem last week. Defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane too are doubtful as they recover from their injury problems. No other injuries or suspensions for Zinedine Zidane to worry about.
Here is how Madrid could take the field against Barcelona:
Real Madrid Probable XI:
Manager: Zinedine Zidane
Keylor Navas (GK)
Was rested for the last Liga encounter with the Bayern game in sights. However, should replace Kiko Casilla in the line-up against Barcelona.
Dani Carvajal (RB)
Danilo had a good run against Sporting Gijon last weekend, but Zidane will look to field his best XI against their arch rivals, meaning Carvajal will be starting on the right-side of the defence.
The academy product has put in a series of good displays in recent weeks. He has been making a name for himself in the absence of Varane and Pepe. Expect him to keep his place in the playing XI.
Sergio Ramos (CB)
There is nobody who knows the magnitude of this clash better than the captain. He will be a very vital presence in the backline for Madrid.
Was the driving force for Madrid in the midweek against Bayern. A definite starter at left-back for the blockbuster clash.
The Brazilian has become a key part of the Madrid midfield with his crunching tackles and tenacious approach. Another appearance for him as the enforcer this weekend.
Luka Modric (CM)
Usually the beating heart of the Madrid midfield. He provides them with the thrust going forward, linking the two halves of the pitch beautifully. A certain starter.
Toni Kroos (CM)
Occupying the final midfield position will be Toni Kroos. The German hasn’t been spectacular in recent weeks, but provides the much-needed composure for Madrid.
Marco Asensio (RW)
With Gareth Bale still unavailable, there is going to be a shuffle on the right-flank. Isco started in the position against Bayern, but there could be a chance for young attacker Marco Asensio to get a starting berth after he impressed heavily coming on from the bench on Tuesday night.
Alvaro Morata (ST)
Spearheading the attack, in all likelihood, should be Alvaro Morata. The Spaniard hasn’t been afforded a lot of opportunities but has made a mark when given a chance. 12 goals in just 21 Liga games (11 starts) speak for itself. And with Karim Benzema struggling, Morata deserves to start, based on form.
Cristiano Ronaldo (LW)
On the left-flank it will be Cristiano Ronaldo. No-brainer really, considering the importance of the player and the recent devastating form he has been in, having scored five times in the two games against Bayern Munich.