Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois will miss Sunday’s top-of-the-table Clasico clash with Barcelona, while defender Antonio Rudiger is available after needing 20 stitches for a head injury suffered in midweek.
Courtois missed Madrid’s final training session Saturday ahead of the high-profile match, while Rudiger took part wearing a protective mask.
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Madrid will host Barca at the Bernabeu with the two LaLiga giants level on 22 points at the top of the table.
“Courtois feels good, but he hasn’t trained much,” Ancelotti said in a news conference Saturday. “He doesn’t feel comfortable, so he’s ruled out for tomorrow. He’ll train next week and we’ll see for Wednesday or next Sunday.”
Courtois has been absent with a sciatic nerve problem since September, with reserve keeper Andriy Lunin, 23, starting Madrid’s last four games and keeping his first clean sheet in last weekend’s 1-0 win at Getafe.
Madrid had been hopeful that Courtois would be able to train and be fit to face Barca but his recovery has taken longer than expected, so Lunin will start the most high-profile game of his career to date.
Rudiger sustained a cut to his forehead while scoring a dramatic 95th-minute headed equaliser in Madrid’s 1-1 Champions League draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.
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“He has to wear the mask to avoid the wound opening up again, but he’s comfortable,” Ancelotti said. “There’s no discomfort. He’s excited, he’s a warrior.”
The last time the two sides met in a competitive game, Barca won 4-0 at the Bernabeu on March 20 — but it was Madrid who went on to win the LaLiga title, finishing 13 points clear of their rivals.
Ancelotti sprung a surprise with his team selection for that match, picking Luka Modric in an unfamiliar false nine position.
“I don’t want to invent anything. Last time I tried to invent something and was criticised for it,” Ancelotti added, laughing, when asked about his plans this time.
“The players know the opponent and the players they have. That game won’t affect us, this is another season, another Clasico. … It isn’t a life-or-death game, it’s a special game, a Clasico, but it’s a very long season.”