MADRID, Sporting Alert – Lionel Messi is only on the bench today for Barcelona for the La Liga El Clasico against Real Madrid at Santiago Bernabeu.
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Messi had been on the sidelines for two months with a ligament injury in his knee, but is back for selection after working out fully during the international break.
The Argentine international will play some part in the game, but manager Luis Enrique did not want to rush his leading striker back in such an intense game.
And with Luis Suarez and Neymar on such great goalscoring form, the manager opted to stick with them to lead the attack, with Ivan Rakitic also starting.
Rakitic makes his return after being out with a calf problem.
Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Sergi Roberto play in the midfield, with Gerard Pique being partnered by Javier Mascherano in the center of the defense.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen starts on the bench with Claudio Bravo the man trusted between the sticks.
Meanwhile, Karim Benzema returns to the starting lineup for Real Madrid.
The French striker had been out with a hamstring problem, but he makes his return to join Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo in the attack.
Real Madrid midfield is also loaded with talents for the El Clasico, with Luka Modric, Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez all starting.
Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos will lineup in the heart of the back line for Rafa Benitez side, with Danilo and Marcelo also starting in defense.
Keylor Navas, as expected, starts in goal for the hosts.
The field is loaded with talents for this game, but the football experts believe the likes of Luka Modric, Sergio Busquets, Suarez and perhaps Messi when he comes on, are likely to be the difference in this Clasico.
Real Madrid Team: Navas, Danilo, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, James, Kroos, Modric, Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo. Subs: Casilla, Pepe, Casemiro, Carvajal, Kovacic, Jese Isco.
Barcelona Team: Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mascherano. Alba, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta, S. Roberto, Suarez, Neymar. Subs: Ter Stegen, Messi, Munir, Sandro, Adriano, Vermaelen, Mathieu.