For the first time in a few months, Ancelotti has most of his roster available (only James is ruled out for El Clásico). However, we already know that our coach is no friend of experiments and, therefore, we should not expect any revolution in his lineup for Sunday's game against FC Barcelona. In fact, as he said in the press conference after our last game against Levante, the lineup and tactics are pretty much decided and will only change if he goes nuts during the week.
If I had to bet, I'd say Ancelotti will use the lineup that is most expected by everybody (Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, Isco; Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo), and that the team will be organized around the 4-3-3/4-4-2 formation we are all used to. But there is still room for reasonable doubt.
First of all, it is not clear whether Ramos and Modric should start the game. It is true that both of them seemed perfectly ready in last Sunday's game against Levante, but the physical demands of a clash against Barcelona can't be compared to what Levante asked from them. They both play a crucial role in Ancelotti's system, but they should not get ninety minutes of game-time unless their physical condition is optimal.
Secondly, experience seems to tell that a pure 4-4-2 works better against FC Barcelona, as our last two victories against them claim. The absence of James Rodríguez makes it impossible for Carlo to use the same eleven men that were able to beat the culés in the Bernabéu back in October, but maybe Modric could take that spot, letting Illarramendi or Silva form the double pivot alongside Kroos. Coentrao, who played as a left winger in Benfica, could also be taken into consideration for the midfield line in the 4-4-2 (thus sending Isco to the right wing), as well as Carvajal, who could be the right winger if Arbeloa covers his back. In any case, the most plausible alternative to form a 4-4-2 seems to just ask Gareth Bale to reduce his offensive deployment.
Lastly, but not of less importance, substitutions are one of the keys in big games like a Clásico, and Ancelotti's favourite lineup leaves very little gunpowder on the bench. If a comeback is needed, the only offensive alternative will be Jesé Rodríguez, and his entrance will mean either the dismantling of our midfield or the loss of a member of the BBC trio, and neither of them seem too promising. Leaving Bale, Isco or Marcelo on the bench could be a risky but interesting move, knowing that either of them can deliver the victory in the final twenty minutes of play.
What's your take, then? How would you beat Barça on Sunday?