Madrid - Croatian
Mateo Kovacic was the surprise selection in Zinedine Zidane's Real
Madrid starting line-up for El Clasico against Barcelona on Saturday as the Frenchman left Gareth Bale and Isco on the bench.
Kovacic hasn't started a La Liga game this season, but did a sterling
job man-marking Barca's danger man Lionel Messi as Real thrashed the
Catalans 5-1 on aggregate in the Spanish Super Cup back in August.
Isco is the man to drop out from the side that started Real's Club
World Cup final win over Gremio last weekend with Cristiano Ronaldo fit
despite missing three training sessions this week due to a minor injury.
Bale is also kept in reserve with the Welshman easing himself back to fitness after nearly three months on the sidelines.
Barca haven't been beaten since they last visited the Santiago
Bernabeu in the Super Cup and hold a commanding 11-point lead over Real
in the title race, although Madrid do have a game in hand.
There were no surprises in Ernesto Valverde's line-up as Thomas
Vermaelen continues to deputise for the injured Samuel Umtiti alongside
Gerard Pique at the heart of a Barca defence that has conceded just
eight goals in their 24-game unbeaten run.
Messi is joined by Luis Suarez in attack with Brazilian international Paulinho supporting from midfield.