Real Madrid are not confident that Karim Benzema will be fit enough to feature in Sunday’s heavyweight clash with Barcelona.
The 34-year-old’s outrageous run of form – nine goals and four assists in his last five games – looks likely to have been ended by a calf injury picked up during the 3-0 win over Mallorca, in which he netted twice and created the other.
Marca note that he has undergone tests and club doctors are confident that he has not suffered anything serious – but given their hefty lead in the La Liga title race, Real are reluctant to take any unnecessary risks with Benzema.
Real are ten points clear of second-placed Sevilla and an additional five ahead of Barcelona, and while they obviously see El Clasico as an enormous fixture, there is a feeling that defeat would not be the end of the world.
Instead, Real’s focus is now primarily on winning the Champions League. Carlo Ancelotti is set for a reunion with reigning champions Chelsea after the international break and he would rather ensure Benzema is fit and healthy for those games.
As a result, Benzema’s chances of playing in Sunday’s game were put at just 40% on Friday.
The concern for Ancelotti is the lack of firepower in the squad behind Benzema. The Frenchman leads Real’s scoring charts with 22 league goals, followed by the only other player to hit double figures; Vinicius Junior with 14.
Luka Jovic has just one La Liga goal in 17 games this year, while Mariano Diaz is goalless in his four fleeting appearances. Marco Asensio, the third-highest scorer with eight, is therefore expected to get the nod playing as a false nine.