Mateo Kovacic is Zinedine Zidane’s joker in the pack for Real Madrid against Barcelona in the Clasico this lunchtime.

Kovacic replaces Isco as Madrid’s No 10, for what is his first start of the season in La Liga, having only recently come back from a knee injury.

Elsewhere for Los Blancos, Cristiano Ronaldo overcomes a calf strain to partner Karim Benzema up top.

Barca, meanwhile, are unchanged from last weekend as Sergi Roberto once more ousts Nelson Semedo at right-back and Paulinho stays on behind strikers Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

The two heavyweights have already locked horns in the International Champions Cup and Supercopa this term, with Barca winning the former and Madrid going on to thrash their arch-rivals 5-1 over two legs.

The match kicks off at the unusually-early time of 12:00 GMT (13:00 local time) to cater for Asian audiences, while there is the added edge of Catalan’s pro-independence parties keeping their majority in a recent snap poll.

That didn’t go down well in Madrid, but politics is for another day as all eyes will be on the Santiago Bernabeu to see the greatest show on earth.

Ronaldo and Messi are tied on 53 goals in 2017, meaning whoever finds the net more on Saturday will end the year as the world’s top scorer.

The Blaugrana have La Liga’s best attack and defence after 16 games and have won three of their last four trips to the Bernabeu in the League.

A fourth in five would see them open not only a nine-point lead at the top after Atletico Madrid’s defeat to Espanyol on Friday but also move some 14 clear of Los Merengues.

Referee Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez only became FIFA accredited at the end of last year but has yet to oversee a Madrid or Barca defeat in 14 games involving the pair since his Liga debut in August 2015.

Follow the Clasico as it happens with our liveblog from 11:45 GMT/12:45 local time!

Real Madrid: Keylor; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Kovacic; Benzema, Ronaldo

Subs: Casilla, Nacho, Bale, Theo, Vazquez, Asensio, Isco

Barcelona: Ter Stegen; Sergi Roberto, Pique, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Paulinho; Messi, Suarez

Subs: Cillessen, Semedo, Denis, Mascherano, Digne, Gomes, Vidal

Referee: Sanchez Martinez

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