EL CLÁSICO

Barcelona vs Real Madrid possible starting line-ups

Koeman’s only doubt going into Sunday’s Clasico is whether to field Jordi Alba at left-back. Ancelotti has a similar dilemma over on the opposite flank.

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Barcelona vs Real Madrid possible starting line-ups
JAVIER SORIANO AFP

If there was ever a game in which tinkering with your starting XI is probably not such a good idea, it’s El Clásico. That’s not to say that Ronald Koeman and Carlo Ancelotti might not try to outfox each other with a surprise inclusion in their line-ups but it is unlikely we will see any big changes for this afternoon’s game. Both coaches invariably use a 4-3-3 system - Koeman has only strayed from that on the odd occasion since the season started. Both have to make decisions about their respective back fours ahead of this, the 247th meeting between Barcelona and Real Madrid.

For Koeman, his only real doubt is whether to stick with Jordi Alba at left-back or reshuffle his back line. Alba sprained his right ankle in the midweek Champions League game against Dynamo Kiev and only recently returned from a hamstring injury. The coach doesn’t have a great deal of alternatives as he is expected to field Sergiño Dest over on the opposite flank to help Sergi Roberto keep Vinicius contained - or bring in Mingueza at right-back after shift Sergi Roberto over to the other side. Barcelona’s defence will likely line up with Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Eric Garcia and Jordi Alba. In midfield, Busquets and De Jong are guaranteed to start, alongside Gavi. Philippe Coutinho has made just three starts this season and after his unconvincing display against Dynamo, he’ll be on the bench this afternoon. Up front, Ansu Fati and Memphis will lead the line accompanied by Dest.

Koeman is unable to count on injured stars Araújo, Pedri, Braithwaite and Dembélé and has included 18-year-old winger Yusef Demir in his 23-man squad list.

Barcelona possible starting XI in El Clásico

Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Piqué, Eric Garcia, Jordi Alba; Busquets, De Jong, Gavi; Ansu Fati, Memphis, Sergiño Dest.

Visitors Real Madrid go into the game with confidence high after thrashing Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 in their last outing. The only real question mark is over Dani Carvajal who has missed the last few games with a calf muscle injury. He has been included in Ancelotti’s squad for the match but seeing as his last appearance was over a month ago it seems highly unlikely that he will be risked from the start. Nacho could come in at right-back, a better defensive option than Lucas Vázquez; Militão will partner Alaba in central defence with Mendy the likely choice at left-back over Marcelo who would struggle against Barça’s pace. In the middle, it’s hard to see Carletto not opting for his first-choice, dependable trio: Modric, Casemiro and Toni Kroos. In attack, the in-form Benzema will be flanked by Vinicius and Rodrygo, giving the visitors pace to do damage down both wings. Gareth Bale remains out with a knee injury and Dani Ceballos still isn’t back from an ankle problem. Mariano has been drafted in to cover for Luka Jovic (who is carrying a knock) but has yet to appear so far this season.

Real Madrid possible starting XI in El Clásico

Courtois; Nacho, Militão, Alaba, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Rodrygo, Benzema, Vinicius.