Ancelotti hopes Benzema back for Madrid derby


Carlo Ancelotti said Karim Benzema could be available to face Atletico Madrid in next week’s derby, despite being substituted in Real Madrid’s 2-0 win at Real Sociedad on Saturday with a hamstring problem.

Benzema’s withdrawal in the 17th minute of Madrid’s victory at the Reale Arena raised serious doubts over his chances of featuring in the LaLiga clash on December 12. His replacement Luka Jovic set up Vinicius Junior for the opening goal in the 47th minute, before scoring himself ten minutes later, as Madrid picked up a vital three points against a La Real side who have topped the table for much of this season.

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“Karim had a problem in the first half, he felt a bit of discomfort,” Ancelotti said in his post-match news conference. “He didn’t want to force it. We’ll see in the next few days, I don’t think he’ll be available for Tuesday’s game [against Inter Milan in the Champions League] but he could be for Sunday.”

Benzema — ranked as the third-best striker in ESPN FC 100 — has scored 12 goals and provided seven assists in LaLiga this season, and his absence in an important week would be a significant blow for the side. Tuesday’s match with Inter will determine which team finishes first in Champions League group D, while a derby win would further strengthen Madrid’s title credentials.

Ancelotti said tests in the coming days would dictate Benzema’s availability for that game, and praised the impact of substitute Jovic, who hadn’t scored Los Blancos since February 2020.

“Jovic is a good forward,” Ancelotti said. “He has different qualities to Karim, we’ll use him less in the possession, but he’s a forward who’s very strong physically, we use him as a ‘wall.’ The first goal for Vinicius is a Jovic classic with his body, a fantastic assist, and the second is a goal from a penalty box player.”

Ancelotti described talk of Madrid playing like LaLiga champions as “exaggerated,” saying “I know football well, with all the good today, we have another exam in three days and everything can change.”

Rivals Atletico will go into the derby under pressure, after losing 2-1 at home to Mallorca on a last-gasp goal scored by Takefusa Kubo, a Real loanee.

“The derby is always a special game,” Ancelotti said. “In these games there are no favourites. We’ll test our quality against the quality Atletico have.”

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