Spanish paper reveals Real Madrid starting line up for Manchester United showdown

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Football News

Karim Benzema will start up front and Pepe will be drafted in at the back for Real Madrid's Champions League showdown against Manchester United according to Marca, who report that manager Jose Mourinho has already settled on his starting XI for the 1st leg tie at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

The Spanish newspaper report that Mourinho will opt for a tried-and-tested starting line-up for the last 16 tie, and has decided to start Pepe alongside Sergio Ramos in defence.

The Portuguese international has been back in training for little more than a week after a month out following ankle surgery, but is likely to be preferred to Raphaël Varane who is struggling to be fit in time.

Marca report that Mourinho considered starting Michael Essien at right-back and moving Alvaro Arbeloa across to the opposite flank with Fabio Coentrao the one to miss out, but has opted to start the Portuguese international on the left and keep Arbeloa on the right-hand side. 

Marcelo is unlikely to be considered after a poor run of form following his return from a lengthy injury lay-off, and was left out of Madrid's squad for their 4-1 win over Sevilla on Saturday.

The front six has a familiar feel to it with Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso in the centre of midfield, with Angel di Maria, Mesut Ozil and Cristiano Ronaldo operating as an attacking three behind Benzema, who is handed a starting role up front ahead of Gonzalo Higuain. 

With goalkeeper Iker Casillas still out of action with a broken hand, Diego Lopez is likely to start in his place once more.

Mourinho dropped a few hints about his starting line up against Manchester United by resting some of his key players during Saturday's win over Sevilla. 

Essien and Luka Modric were handed rare starts in midfield with Alonso and Khedira rested, while Raul Albiol started at the back alongside Ramos. Ronaldo was taken off just after the hour-mark, but not before he claimed a second hat-trick in three league games which took his goal tally to 24 for the season.

Less than 24 hours after the win, Mourinho was present to watch Manchester United's comfortable 2-0 win over Everton at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Madrid take on United in the 1st leg of their last 16 Champions League tie at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

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