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Are Varane (L) and Ramos Madrid's best central-defense duo?
Defending is obviously a key to any matchup. With Real Madrid, they've got to do a lot of work to control Barcelona's free-flowing football. The likes of Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta will surely be looking to score in this huge match, and the Blaugrana will likely dominate possession.
As such, preventing that possession from being converted into goals will be a tough task for Jose Mourinho's defense. They held their opponents to a solitary goal in the first leg and will hope for similar results this time around. But who will he pick to do it?
Raphael Varane, once a peripheral figure of sorts, is now a lock to make Tuesday's starting lineup. The Frenchman, whom teammate Pepe declared will be one of the world's best in a short time, dominated the first leg, shackling Messi and even scoring the vital equalizer (via Goal.com).
Speaking of Pepe, who will partner Varane is an interesting debate. The Portugal international was given the runaround by Deportivo at the weekend, and with Sergio Ramos returning from suspension, Pepe could be rested on Tuesday, at least in anticipation of the Liga clash next weekend.
Mourinho could opt to play all three, shifting Ramos out to the right-back spot, at which he earned his sending-off against Rayo Vallecano. Or he could bring in fellow Spaniard Alvaro Arbeloa, who will offer less going forward but will stick to his defensive duties.
This leaves the left-back spot. Fabio Coentrao was rested against Deportivo, perhaps hinting he could get the starting nod over Marcelo. The Brazilian got the start Saturday, being substituted after less than an hour and feels "in good shape (via Goal.com)."
Both players will offer plenty of attacking threat, but their abilities to cancel out Barca's fluid attacking threat will surely be tested. Marcelo's lack of full fitness would be a detriment to his side.