Carlo Ancelotti has suggested that Gareth Bale will start when Real Madrid visit rivals Barcelona on Saturday. The Welshman has started just once since his big-money move from Tottenham at the end of the transfer window, following a series of niggling injuries. But, after making his second substitute appearance of his latest comeback in a 2-1 in over Juventus in midweek, Ancelotti believes that Bale is now ready to go from the off.
"It's true that he didn’t have an easy time and he's worked hard, he used the international break to improve his condition, in my opinion and his opinion, he is ready to play from the start,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “He's ready. We're going to see the best of Bale now.”
Ancelotti also confirmed that central defender Raphael Varane was fit enough to start. The France international, who has not featured for three weeks, played a starring role against Barcelona in last season’s Copa del Rey semifinal.
It will, of course, be Ancelotti’s first experience of El Clasico and the Italian was keen to point out that he wants to be positive at the Camp Nou.
“Our aim is to go there and try to prove our qualities, our play, and play as well as possible,” he explained. “The key is to have courage to play good football, not just sit and wait for them but to show character and go to Barcelona with the intention of playing good football. The counterattack is a weapon we can use against Barcelona, but it's difficult to get the ball off them and the important thing is to do something positive when we have the ball, make good passes, and if there is space, counter, why not?”
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Madrid go into the game having closed the gap art the top to three points after Barcelona dropped their first points of the season with a goalless draw at Osasuna last week. That result was followed by a draw in Milan in midweek, but manager Gerardo Martino believes that clinical finishing was all that was missing from those performances.
“We’re good. We didn’t beat Osasuna or Milan, but we’re not going backwards,” he said, reports AS. “We played the way we always do and we had chances to win. I hope we’re sharper in front of goal.”
The former Newell’s Old Boys coach revealed that he had decided on his lineup for the Clasico before the match against Milan, sparking suggestions, which he tried to downplay, that both Carles Puyol and Cesc Fabregas would start after being left out in the Champions League. After training separately on Wednesday and Thursday due to a thigh strain, Gerard Pique rejoined full training on Friday.
D: Alves, Pique, Puyol, Adriano
M: Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
F: Sanchez, Messi, Neymar
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo
M: Khedira, Modric
Bale, Isco, Ronaldo
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division match will kick off at noon ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport, with a free live stream available on beIN Sport Play.