Bale and Messi set to start El Clasico

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Injuries have hampered Gareth Bale’s record-breaking move from Tottenham to Real Madrid, with the Welshman recording just three appearances in La Liga thus far. He’s made just one start, in the 2-2 draw against Villarreal in mid-September, but played nearly 30 minutes in the win over Juventus on Wednesday night.

Now, Carlo Ancelotti is set to start Bale in one of the season’s most important matches: the first league Clasico of the season, with Barcelona hosting Real Madrid. The two sides are separated by just three points, and Ancelotti knows that reaching Barcelona at the top of the table could give a huge boost to his side’s hopes of taking the title. So on comes Bale, who’s rumored to be starting alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Angel Di Maria in a three-man attack. Karim Benzema, who didn’t have the best of outings midweek, will drop to the bench.

(Curious about El Clasico? Read more!)

On the other side, it looks as though Tata Martino is prepared to start Lionel Messi, who’s also had a tough time of it this season — if you can count eight goals in seven league matches a tough time. Messi hasn’t started a La Liga match in the past month, however, since he was substituted in the win over Almeria (and even that, it was after he’d scored a goal).

The Argentine started against Milan on Tuesday and scored the equalizer before thirty minutes had passed. He played the full 90 and now Martino is set to let him lose at Camp Nou. The Barcelona boss knows he must do everything in his power to keep their rivals from pulling level at the top — and that, almost inevitably, means playing Messi from the start.