Colombian World Cup star James Rodriguez will start for Real Madrid against Granada on Sunday after a two month layoff with a foot injury, Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed.
Rodriguez fractured the fifth metatarsal in his right foot during a 2-1 win over Sevilla at the start of February and his absence has coincided with Real’s decline in recent weeks as they surrendered a four-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga to now trail the Catalans by four points.
“He will start the game,” Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference on Saturday.
“He is fine. Tomorrow I will give a rest to (Sami) Khedira and (Dani) Carvajal, Isco is suspended for one game and the rest are available.”
The visit of Granada to the Santiago Bernabeu kicks off a busy month for the European champions with seven La Liga games in 27 days, as well as a Champions League quarter-final against city rivals Atletico Madrid.
However, Ancelotti believes his squad is fresher than at this time last season and can still overcome Barcelona in the title race.
“We are convinced that the league is still wide open, but we cannot slip up. We need to try to win all the remaining games.
“It is true that in January and February we dipped, but the team is fresh and desperate to win. We come into this period in better shape than last year.”
Isco’s suspension means that Rodriguez’s return doesn’t threaten Gareth Bale’s place in the side at least for this weekend. However, much more will be expected of the Welshman in the final stretch of the campaign than he has delivered so far in 2015.
Bale was, though, on target twice in Wales’s 3-0 win over Israel last weekend and Ancelotti is hoping the confidence gained from those goals will carry over to his club form.
“The last few games he has been good. Against Levante he scored and in the first half against Barcelona he was important.
“I watched him play very well for Wales. The break will have helped his confidence and that of the others. The international break has helped us.”