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Feb 28, 2013

Real and Barca to make changes

Real Madrid and Barcelona are both expected to make changes to their starting XIs for Saturday's La Liga Clasico at the Bernabeu, with Madrid's Jose Callejon and Luka Modric possibly coming in, and Barca's David Villa and Javier Mascherano in line to start.

• Marcotti: Barca need a rethink

Definitely out is Madrid winger Angel Di Maria, after his suspension for the game was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, with Spain's football authorities upholding the one-match ban received for being sent off during last Saturday's 2-1 win at Deportivo la Coruna.

Brazilian playmaker Kaka, who scored Madrid's equaliser at Riazor, could come into the side in place of the Argentine international, although coach Jose Mourinho may prefer the energy of Callejon on the right wing, where Di Maria did an excellent job in closing down Barca's Jordi Alba during Tuesday's Copa del Rey semi-final victory in Barcelona.

Madrid trained behind closed doors at their Valdebebas training ground on Thursday with the club revealing afterwards that Callejon and Raul Albiol did not train with the group. Albiol missed Tuesday's game with flu.

Karim Benzema, who appeared in court on Thursday morning in connection with a motoring offence, is expected to be available for Saturday's game. Even with Madrid 16 points adrift of Barca in the table, Mourinho is unlikely to make too many changes, although Xabi Alonso may be rested as a result of his troublesome groin issue ahead of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg at Manchester United. This could mean Modric or Michael Essien starting in midfield.

Barcelona had a free day on Thursday as their players look to regroup after a difficult week that as well as Tuesday's painful Copa Clasico defeat, brought a 2-0 reverse in the Champions League last-16 first leg at Milan.

Lionel Messi missed Wednesday's recuperation session after complaining of feeling unwell but is expected back at training on Friday morning. Midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas are both reportedly carrying hamstring issues, with Mundo Deportivo claiming on Thursday that each received a painkilling injection before Tuesday's game.

Since that defeat, both midfielder Andres Iniesta and stand-in coach Jordi Roura have suggested changes are required to the Barca line-up to inject more energy and ideas into the team. Villa is expected to start, with Fabregas most likely to make way, in a reshuffle that would see Iniesta returned to his favourite central midfield position.

Thiago Alcantara is another option in midfield, while Cristian Tello could bring more pace and directness on the wing. Carles Puyol, embarrassed by Di Maria for Madrid's second goal on Tuesday, could also miss out, with Mascherano coming in.

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