MADRID (TIP): World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo returns for a Real Madrid side otherwise stricken by injuries and suspensions as they look to beat Atletico Madrid for the first time in six meetings this season on February 6.
Ronaldo completed his two-game ban for kicking out at Cordoba defender Edimar as the European champions sneaked past Sevilla to open up a four-point lead over Barcelona at the top of the table on Wednesday.
However, victory came at a cost as World Cup star James Rodriguez broke a bone in his right foot that will keep him out for two months, whilst centre-back Sergio Ramos will also be sidelined due to a hamstring problem in the coming weeks.
Left-back Marcelo misses out at the Calderon too after his appeal against his fifth yellow card of the Liga campaign was dismissed on Thursday.
Real boss Carlo Ancelotti is short of defensive options with Pepe also out with a rib injury, but he insisted he has confidence in the inexperienced pairing of Raphael Varane and Nacho in central defence.
“What we lose above all is experience, but sometimes enthusiasm is a good thing,” said Ancelotti.
“The two of them (Varane and Nacho) give me a lot of confidence. Ramos and Pepe are among the best defenders in the world, but I am not worried.”
Atletico have bounced back from their heartbreaking Champions League final defeat at the hands of Real last season to beat them in the Spanish Supercup and Copa del Rey over two legs this season, as well as winning 2-1 at the Bernabeu in La Liga earlier in the campaign.
However, defeat this weekend would see them fall 10 points behind the league leaders and all but end their defence of the title.
“I think it is important because the last games against Atletico weren’t good, so we have to change this bad run,” added Ancelotti.
“It will be a very difficult game, but we want to do something different.
“The motivation is so big for this game being a Madrid derby we don’t need the motivation of leaving Atletico 10 points behind.”
In contrast to the visitors, Diego Simeone has a fully-fit squad to choose from for the first time since November and defender Diego Godin insisted their desire to beat their cross-city rivals hasn’t been diminished by recent success.