Gareth Bale is likely to feature in the starting XI as Real Madrid take on arch-rivals Barcelona in the first El Clasico of the season.

Real Madrid will be aiming to knock Barcelona off their perch at the top of the La Liga standings, when the two teams go head to head against each other at Camp Nou on Wednesday. Zinedine Zidane’s side are second in the table, level on points with the Catalans and a win at Camp Nou will put them three points clear at the top.

Real Madrid have no fresh injury concerns heading into the first Clasico of the season. However, they will once again be without the services of Marcelo, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio, James Rodriguez and marquee summer signing Eden Hazard, all of whom are out with injuries.

Los Blancos will be boosted by the return of Ferland Mendy, who was suspended for their weekend clash against Valencia. The Frenchman ought to walk into the starting XI, replacing Nacho at left-back. The rest of the backline shielding Thibaut Courtois should remain intact with Dani Carvajal starting at right-back, while Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos pair up at the centre.

Real Madrid should also welcome back Brazilian enforcer Casemiro to the starting lineup after Zidane opted to rest the midfielder on Sunday. He is likely to replace Luka Modric in the side after the Croat’s underwhelming display against Valencia.

Toni Kroos should hold on to his place in the starting XI along with Federico Valverde, who has become a key player for Real Madrid this season. “He’s doing very well and that’s the value of this club. This club has always had the best players and he’s proving that he deserves to be here,” Zidane said speaking of the Uruguayan in his pre-match presser.

Gareth Bale, Isco, Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr. will be competing for starting berths on the wings in Hazard’s absence. Bale has drawn the ire of the fans of late after sparking controversy while on international duty last month. However, he could be in line to start against Barcelona on Wednesday, as Zidane might look for experience over youth.

Speaking of the Welsh international, the Real Madrid boss said, “He’s with us and is training well. He’s an important player and has always shown that. He’ll be ready tomorrow, just like they all will be. I’ve got no doubts about that.”

The other flank is likely to be taken up by Spanish playmaker Isco, who has worked his way back into the starting XI in recent weeks. Karim Benzema, who has been in sublime form this season, is a certainty to lead the Real Madrid attack at Camp Nou.

Predicted Real Madrid XI: Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Isco

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