El Clasico team news: Ronaldo starts for Real Madrid against Barcelona

A calf problem had spread doubt over the Portuguese’s ability to play, but he has been selected as the home side’s spearhead
Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Real Madrid’s attack in El Clasico, while Gareth Bale is overlooked.

The Portugal international had been considered a doubt for the clash due to a calf problem, but Zinedine Zidane confirmed on Friday that the attacker would be fit and has placed him in his starting XI for a vital encounter.

He will not, however, be joined in the starting XI by Bale, who has played only 12 times this season and has featured only as a substitute since returning from a calf problem, with a couple of brief outings in the successful push for the Club World Cup earlier this month.

Madrid lie 11 points behind Barcelona ahead of Saturday’s fixture, albeit with a game in hand, and though Zidane denied that the league would be over for Los Blancos if they were to lose, the gap would leave no further room for error.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have named a predictable starting XI for this clash, with Thomas Vermaelen replacing the injured Samuel Umtiti in the heart of the defence.

Lionel Messi will lead the attack with Luis Suarez, with the Argentine, who famously scored a 92nd-minute winner when these sides played in this fixture last term, chasing his 25th goal against Madrid.

Real Madrid XI: Keylor Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Kovacic, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Barcelona XI: Ter Stegen; S. Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Paulinho, Iniesta; Messi, Luis Suarez.

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