How Real Madrid Will Line Up Against Barcelona

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistOctober 24, 2013

MADRID, SPAIN - OCTOBER 23:  Real Madrid CF head coach Carlo Ancelotti looks on before the start of the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Real Madrid CF and Juventus at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on October 23, 2013 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)
Denis Doyle/Getty Images

When Carlo Ancelotti sits down over the next couple of days he faces some of the biggest decisions of his short tenure as Real Madrid boss as he prepares for the match against Barcelona on Saturday.

The most pressing ones persist over his midfield, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale.

It has become increasingly obvious how much Madrid are missing Xabi Alonso as the season has developed.

Ancelotti has turned to Sami Khedira and Asier Illarramendi recently to fill the Alonso gap, but on Wednesday night against Juventus in the Champions League he opted to place Luka Modric alongside them—Isco missed out as a result.

For Madrid's recent derby against Atletico—which they lost 1-0—it was the Croatian who found himself, perhaps harshly, on the bench.

His performances have ranked among Madrid's best throughout this season, and that was again the case against Juventus—Modric made 104 passes according to WhoScored.com, completing 96 percent of them.

Is Modric deserving of a start?
Is Modric deserving of a start?/Getty Images

That three-man midfield could be a glimpse of what the Italian coach is thinking ahead of El Clasico.

As a result Isco would miss out.

The young, creative midfielder started the season on fire, but his performances have slipped since, and it wouldn't be a complete surprise to see him as a substitute at Camp Nou.

Ahead of them, question marks continue to linger over the head of Karim Benzema.

Frustrations continue to rumble around the Bernabeu over the lack of goals produced by the Frenchman—he's not helping himself either, given the open goal he missed from a yard out on Wednesday night.

If Ancelotti does wield the axe he has two options.

His first option is to play youngster Alvaro Morata, who turned 21 this week. The Spain U-21 international has looked lively in the few minutes he's had this season; Madrid fans would certainly back his inclusion.

Bale is the other, more intriguing, option. When the Welshman was brought on against Juve, Ronaldo went into the middle, Angel di Maria switched to the left and the former Tottenham man slotted in on the right—a dress rehearsal perhaps?

Should Benzema miss out?
Should Benzema miss out?/Getty Images

There are other questions too, but Ancelotti has largely shown his preferences in answering them previously.

Diego Lopez should return in goal, while Alvaro Arbeloa and Marcelo continue to be viewed as the Madrid boss' favourite full-backs—Dani Carvajal and Fabio Coentrao aren't bad alternatives though.

In the middle of the back four it will presumably be Pepe and Sergio Ramos.

Raphael Varane is without doubt the long-term option for Los Blancos, but his injury problems so far this season make Pepe the much safer bet to line up against Barcelona this weekend.

Ancelotti has not been overly predictable with his Madrid team selections though, so nothing would be completely expected when the lineups are revealed for this season's first El Clasico on Saturday.

Predicted Real Madrid XI: Diego Lopez; Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Marcelo; Asier Illarramendi, Sami Khedira, Luka Modric; Angel di Maria, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale

 

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