MADRID, Spain — Cristiano Ronaldo is “feeling good” and starts for Real Madrid in today’s El Clasico clash with the Lionel Messi led Barcelona, live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS CONNECT U.S.A.
However, fellow forward Gareth Bale, who was hoping to start, is only on the bench to start this game, with Karim Benzema to support the free-scoring frontman in that attack.
Ronaldo had been missing training with a calf problem he suffered against Gremio in the Club World Cup final last Saturday, but manager Zinedine Zidane confirmed that the forward is “100 percent” fit and ready to play.
— Real Madrid C.F.🇬🇧 (@realmadriden) December 23, 2017
The Portugal international scored the winning goal for Real Madrid in the 1-0 win over Gremio and had played the full 90 minutes.
“He is feeling good and is 100 percent,” Zidane told his press conference on Friday.
Isco is also on the bench as Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Mateo Kovacic and Luka Modric all start in midfield.
Meanwhile, Gerard Pique and Thomas Vermaelen start at centerback for Barcelona, as Samuel Umtiti is out.
In midfield, Paulinho comes in to replace Alacer from the side that won over Deportivo, while Messi and Luis Suarez lead the attacking line.
With a win on Saturday, Barcelona would go nine points clear at the top of the La Liga standings.
A defeat for Real Madrid would see Zinedine Zidane’s side trailing its arch rivals by 14 points.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) December 23, 2017
Real are sitting fourth in the La Liga standings, but have played one game less than Barcelona, so if they win at the Santiago Bernabeu in this fixture and beat Leganes in their game in hand against would see the champions cutting the gap with Barca to five points.
“We aren’t feeling anxious, it doesn’t matter how many points we have dropped this season, now we have to put in a great performance against a very good side,” said Zidane.
Despite sitting comfortably at the top of the standings Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde isn’t expecting an easy trip to Madrid.
“I don’t think we are favourites, the league table has no influence on games like this because of the tension there always is,” he said.
“Madrid are such a powerful team that they can strike you down even when you’re in your best moment of form. Also, they will be at home.”
REAL MADRID TEAM NEWS
Real Madrid Team to play El Clasico: Navas, Carvajal, Varane, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Casemiro, Modric, Kroos, Kovacic, Ronaldo, Benzema. Subs: Casilla, Nacho, Bale, Theo, Vazquez, Asensio, Isco
BARCELONA TEAM NEWS
Barcelona Team to play El Clasico: Ter Stegen, Sergi Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta, Rakitic, Paulinho, Suarez, Messi. Subs: Cillessen, Semedo, Denis Suarez, Mascherano, Digne, Andre Gomes, Vidal