Injury and security doubts ahead of Spanish Clasico
MADRIDNov 20, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
Nov 20, 2015 12:00 am
Rarely have Real Madrid and Barcelona approached a Clasico with so many injury doubts.
Real - who are three points behind leaders Barca - are hoping that Keylor Navas, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo and James Rodriguez will be fit, though they seem to have given up on Dani Carvajal and Karim Benzema.
Navas, Ramos and Marcelo all missed this week's international matches, though Rodriguez played twice for Colombia and will probably be left on the bench by embattled coach Rafa Benitez.
Anything less than a convincing win will increase the pressure on Benitez, who - according to many media reports - has not gone down well in the Real dressing room. Cristiano Ronaldo has been quoted as telling club president Florentino Perez: "With this coach, we are not going to win anything."
Ronaldo cuts a rather malcontent figure nowadays: In poor form, unsure of his role on the team and clearly unhappy. He is also reportedly annoyed at Real for not sending anyone to the premiere of his film in London last week.
Meanwhile, Barca coach Luis Enrique is wondering whether to start with Lionel Messi and Ivan Rakitic, after their injuries. He is due to have a meeting with Messi - who has been out with a sprained left knee since Sept. 26 - Friday to decide whether to leave the little Argentine on the bench or start him instead.
If this happens, as seems probable, Barca will start with a 4-4-2 formation with captain Andres Iniesta just behind strikers Luis Suarez and Neymar, both of whom are in superb form.
When asked about Messi, Suarez said: "That is a decision for the coach and the medical staff. He is training well, but this is an injury which might have risks for the future."
Suarez is second in the scorers' chart, two goals behind Neymar, who might be tired after his exertions for Brazil. In contrast, Suarez is raring to go after a two-week break due to his ongoing suspension for Uruguay.
Nonetheless, Barca players have played more than twice the number of minutes in this week's international games than their Real counterparts - 1,302 as opposed to just 610.
Spanish and European football is in need of a lively Clasico after a traumatic week featuring terrorist attacks in Paris and matches cancelled in Belgium and Germany.
There will be massive security outside the Estadio Bernabeu for the big game. A leading police official told Radio Marca: "We will be searching the fans as never before - we will even be looking inside their sandwiches."