Real Madrid’s Rodriguez handed chance in Bale absence

Madrid (AFP) – James Rodriguez was handed a rare chance to start on the big occasion after Real Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane resisted the Champions League temptation to rush back Gareth Bale after three months out with ankle ligament damage.

With Bale left out of the squad altogether, Rodriguez edged out Lucas Vazquez for a role on the right of the Madrid attack alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema for the last 16 first leg tie against Napoli.

Ronaldo has the chance to make more history as he is just two goals off reaching a century in European competitions.

Zidane makes just two other changes to the side that won 3-1 at Osasuna on Saturday as Dani Carvajal and Toni Kroos come in with Nacho, Danilo and Isco dropping out.

Napoli coach Maurizio Sarri named two former Madrid players in his starting line-up as Raul Albiol and Jose Maria Callejon return to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Belgian international Dries Mertens’s sensational form with 14 goals in his last 11 outings ensures he keeps his place ahead of the fit-again Arkadiusz Milik, who has to settle for a place on the bench.

Starting line-ups for the UEFA Champions League last 16, first leg between Real Madrid and Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday (kick-off 1945 GMT):

Real Madrid (4-3-3): Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos (capt), Marcelo; Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric; James Rodriguez, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo

Coach: Zinedine Zidane (FRA)

Napoli: Pepe Reina; Elseid Hysaj, Raul Albiol, Kalidou Koulibaly, Faouzi Ghoulam; Piotr Zielinski, Amadou Diawara, Marek Hamsik (capt), Jose Maria Callejon, Dries Mertens, Lorenzo Insigne

Coach: Maurizio Sarri (ITA)

Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)

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