Saturday, February 7, 2015 12:23 pm
Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Real Madrid squad from suspension as the Spanish league leaders make the short trip in town to face reigning league champions Atletico Madrid today.
Ronaldo was given a two-match suspension after lashing out at a Cordoba player in a match Gareth Bale spared the European champions’ blushes with a late penalty in a come-from-behind 2-1 win.
While the Ballon d’Or holder returns, Real would however be without defenders Sergio Ramos and Pepe, as well as Colombian forward James Rodriguez who will be sidelined for two months after having a foot surgery.
Croatian midfielder Luka Modric is also unavailable as Real – that has won 17 of their last 18 matches in the league – seek to end a five-match winless run against Atletico.
Atletico’s last defeat to Real was in last season’s UEFA Champions League final, with Diego Simeone’s side getting the better of Carlo Ancelotti’s side in three of the five matches since then; including the reverse league fixture at the Bernabeu earlier this season.
Simeone has a fully fit squad to choose from as Atletico look to avoid having their title-defence ambition potentially ended close this weekend by closing the gap on the league leaders.
Real may have scored almost twice as many goals as Atletico in the league this season, but the leaders have conceded just two fewer than their crosstown rivals ahead of another potentially close encounter at the Calderon.
A win for Atletico on Saturday would open the door for in-form Barcelona to go within a point of Real when the Catalans visit a resurgent Athletic Bilbao side on Sunday aiming for a ninth successive win in all competitions.
Elsewhere in Spain, fourth placed Sevilla will be guests of Madrid side Getafe on Sunday while Valencia – a point and place behind Sevilla – will also be on the road to face Catalan side Espanyol on Sunday as well.