Real Madrid will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the La Liga, when they take on arch rivals Barcelona at Camp Nou this weekend.
After ending a five-match winless run earlier this week, Real Madrid will now battle against bitter rivals Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the 2018-19 season on Sunday.
Real Madrid brought an end to their recent run of terrible results that had seen them go five matches without a win in all competitions and lose three in a row, when they defeated Viktoria Plzen 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League on Tuesday night.
Julen Lopetegui’s men find themselves in the eighth position in the La Liga table with 14 points from 9 matches, five points behind leaders Atletico Madrid and four below Barcelona, who sit second. And anything other than a victory on Sunday at Camp Nou will see them lose further ground in the La Liga title race this early into the season.
Real Madrid are likely to make a few changes to the side that took the field against Plzen earlier this week, starting from the goalkeeping spot itself, with summer signing Thibaut Courtois expected to return to the lineup in place of Keylor Navas.
With Dani Carvajal still sidelined with a calf injury, utility man Nacho is set to move to the right side of the back four, after having started the last match as a centre-back. Raphael Varane, who watched on from the bench on Tuesday night, is expected to return to the starting XI in the heart of the defence, alongside the Merengues’ captain Sergio Ramos.
Marcelo limped off the field injured in the European encounter on Tuesday, but Lopetegui confirmed that the Brazilian was fit and should start at left-back. “Marcelo took a knock which forced him to come off, but he’s fine and has trained as usual. We’ve still got one training session to go, but we think that he’ll be available,” the manager said in his pre-match press conference.
Dani Ceballos, who was excluded from the matchday squad for the Champions League game, has been included by Lopetegui this time out. However, he is unlikely to start at Camp Nou, with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and Casemiro expected to be retained in the lineup, despite the trio not hitting peak form this season.
Gareth Bale had a forgettable game on Tuesday and will be hoping to bounce back strongly against the Catalans. He will start on the right flank for Los Blancos. Karim Benzema, on the other hand, had an impressive outing and will feature from the get go, ahead of summer signing Mariano Diaz.
Isco has started back to back matches immediately after returning from a brief layoff due to his appendicitis surgery. However, considering how rusty he looked against Plzen, there is a possibility that the manager might opt to leave him out of the team for the Clasico.
“Isco returned after a period on the sidelines, he played two games and tomorrow we’ll see the line-up that I go with,” Lopetegui said, speaking about the Spaniard’s situation. Marco Asensio is in line to take his compatriot’s spot on the left flank on Sunday.