Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out of Sunday’s Clasico against Barcelona with a calf injury.
The 34-year-old’s outrageous run of form – nine goals and four assists in his last five games – has been prematurely ended by a calf problem picked up during the 3-0 win over Mallorca, in which he netted twice and created the other.
Having undergone tests at the club, Real Madrid’s doctors are confident that he has not suffered anything serious – but given their hefty lead in the La Liga title race, Real will not 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 playing Benzema – who was unable to properly train with the rest of the squad in their final session before the game – is not a risk worth taking.
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 having a fit and healthy for Benzema is paramount to potential success.
The concern for Ancelotti in the mean time is the lack of firepower in the squad without 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.