Current La Liga leaders Real Madrid will host relegation battlers Sporting Gijon at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday. Madrid have had a week to remember as they thrashed rivals Atletico Madrid 3-0 and followed it up with a win over Sporting CP in the Champions League.
With the El Clasico coming up next week, the Los Blancos will be hoping to keep the momentum going and secure a victory over Sporting Gijon.
Madrid will be without star man Gareth Bale after the Welsh winger was limped off the pitch in the midweek fixture due to an injury. There has been no statement made regarding his expected return and manager Zinedine Zidane will be sweating over Bale’s fitness with the Clasico so close by.
Apart from Bale, the midfield duo of Toni Kroos and Casemiro will also be notable absentees as they continue their recoveries.
Zidane fielded his team in a 4-4-2 formation against Atletico last weekend with Ronaldo leading the line, but with Benzema scoring the winner in Portugal we might see a change at the top. With Madrid looking to gain a stronghold at the top, here we take a look at the expected XI that Zidane will send out against Gijon:
GK – Keylor Navas
The Costa Rican has been good for Madrid this season and is coming on the back of a clean sheet against Atletico. He couldn’t do much to save the penalty in the CL fixture but has shown that he can be a reliable option between the posts.
RB – Dani Carvajal
Had an impressive outing against Sporting in the midweek. Should feature on the right side of the defence and with his attacking vigour, expect him to spend most of the time in Gijon’s half.
CB – Raphael Varane
The Frenchman had a great game in Portugal, as he looked solid at the back and capped his performance with a goal. He will start at the heart of the defence and will pose a major threat to the visitors from set pieces.
CB – Sergio Ramos
The Spaniard returned from injury and put in a good show against Sporting CP and with the Clasico up next, Zidane will want his captain to be at his best.
LB – Marcelo
Was taken off midway through the second half on Tuesday to give fellow left-back Fabio Coentrao some playing time, but after the Portuguese’s horror show, it will be Marcelo who is expected to feature.
CM – Luka Modric
The Croatian will be the deepest of the three midfielders as he continues to be the hub of everything good for the Galacticos.
CM – Isco
The Spaniard has been showing a good form of late but struggled against Sporting on Tuesday. But will be afforded much more space to show his array of skills and passes as Gijon will look to sit deep.
CM – James Rodriguez
The Colombian has hardly been used by Zidane this season despite injuries to his first-choice midfielders.
With rumours of James’ growing frustrations gaining voice by the minute, the French legend might decide to give the Madrid No. 10 a chance on Saturday as a way of boosting the player’s confidence. That would mean Mateo Kovacic will have to make do with a place on the bench.
LW – Cristiano Ronaldo
After having played two matches as the striker with contrasting outcomes, expect Madrid’s main man Cristiano Ronaldo to return to his favoured left-wing position, especially with an injured Bale set to miss out.
RW – Marco Asensio
The youngster has made good progress and has shown his capabilities having already scored 6 times this season and with Bale absent and Lucas Vazquez struggling against Sporting on Tuesday, the 20-year older should feature on the right-flank for Madrid.
ST – Karim Benzema
The Frenchman is largely expected to be reinstated to the playing XI after having scored the late winner in Portugal after coming on from the bench.