Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will start in their crucial semi-final clash with rivals Atletico Madrid, reports the team's official website and via ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan.
Ronaldo has been on fine form this season scoring 22 goals in 21 La Liga appearances, per ESPN, and has been vital for Madrid as they chase a treble under Italian manager Ancelotti, in his first season with Los Blancos. But the Ballon d'Or winner was sent off on Sunday in Madrid's 1-1 draw with Athletic Bilbao.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference, courtesy of Marco Ruiz of AS, Ancelotti said
Will Cristiano be able to start tomorrow? "I don't think we'll have to wait and see what the Committee says about it because I'm certain he's not going to be given a long ban. Cristiano will play tomorrow."
What did you think of Cristiano's behaviour against Athletic? “I don't know. I don't think it was that bad. He wasn't happy because the red card was harsh and he was provoked, as you expect in games like that. They were fouling him very often and provoking him. What he did wasn't that bad."
Ronaldo raised his hands while involved in a confrontation with Athletic's Carlos Gurpegi and Ander Iturraspe late in the second half, reported ESPN. But the red card was deemed as a harsh decision by referee Miguel Angel Ayza Gamez, with the Madrid star possibly missing La Liga games due to suspension. If he avoids a four-game ban, the Portuguese international will play in the Madrid derby in March.
It should be noted that Ronaldo's appeal is still pending.
Madrid will be hoping to impose themselves on their rivals in the crucial first leg at the Bernabeu. The last time the two teams clashed, Atletico beat their Madrid rivals 1-0 when Diego Costa scored the only goal, on Gareth Bale's Real Madrid debut, reported The Guardian's Sid Lowe.
Ancelotti will also have Gareth Bale available in a boost to his Madrid side, per Corrigan, after the Welshman missed the club's last two games due to injury.
The availability of Bale and Ronaldo will be important if Madrid have any chance of winning this first leg. Real are on great form, having not lost since the defeat to Barcelona in October, and are on a 22-match unbeaten run. They will be looking to further that with a victory over their high-flying rivals.
Atletico went four points clear at the top of La Liga after Real drew with Bilbao whilst Barcelona went down 3-2 to Valencia, splitting the title race wide open.