Real Madrid welcome Barcelona to the Santiago Bernabeu in La Liga on Sunday afternoon.
The last time Madrid hosted their fierce Catalan rivals Carlo Ancelotti had a tactical headache in the absence of Karim Benzema. Without a recognised number nine, there were plenty of options for the Italian – who did his best to try them all.
Starting with Luka Modric as the furthest forward player, Ancelotti switched to a back-three with Madrid trailing 2-0 at half-time. Only four minutes separated Barcelona’s third and fourth of the night but that was still enough time for a return to a four-man backline which proved just as ineffective.
Here’s the more orthodox XI Ancelotti may deploy this weekend.
GK: Thibaut Courtois – The Belgian is facing a race against time and his spine to overcome a back problem by Sunday.
RB: Dani Carvajal – The only red card of Carvajal’s La Liga career came against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2017.
CB: Eder Militao – Even if Antonio Rudiger does make a swift recovery from a nasty head wound, Militao is expected to line up against his familiar partner at the back.
CB: David Alaba – A veteran of 30 Klassikers in Germany, Alaba marked his clasico debut with a goal in October 2021.
LB: Ferland Mendy – Madrid’s fleet-footed left-back is unbeaten in five appearances for Los Blancos against Barcelona – though he did lose 5-1 to the Catalans while playing for Lyon.
CM: Luka Modric – If the 37-year-old features on Sunday, he will become the second-oldest outfield player to represent Real Madrid in a clasico, behind only the legendary Alfredo di Stefano.
CM: Aurelien Tchouameni – The shiny new addition to Madrid’s midfield has racked up more minutes this season than either of the remaining wily veterans.
CM: Toni Kroos – To compound the 4-0 shellacking Kroos endured during Barcelona’s last trip to Madrid, the German was hooked at half-time and spent an hour and a half waiting to deliver a sample for a drugs test after the match with Vinicius Junior and two victorious opponents.
RW: Federico Valverde – Back in 2017, Valverde’s compatriot Luis Suarez was already comparing the Uruguayan to his former Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard. Rather than feel the burden of the billing, Valverde was flattered.
ST: Karim Benzema – Madrid’s talismanic striker can boast the fastest clasico goal in La Liga this century, pouncing upon an error from Victor Valdes inside 21 seconds in 2011.
LW: Vinicius Junior – Last weekend, Vinicius completed no fewer than four nutmegs against Getafe – the most any player in La Liga has recorded during a single game this season.