Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has recovered from a bruised thigh and is available for Sunday’s La Liga ‘Clasico’ at home to Barcelona, coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Saturday.
Benzema took a knock in a collision with team mate Cristiano Ronaldo in last weekend’s 1-0 La Liga win at Malaga and the France international missed Tuesday’s Champions League game against Schalke 04. “Benzema has recovered well and he trained with the rest of the team today without any problems,” Ancelotti told a news conference.”We had a small problem with Isco who arrived with a mild cold and had some treatment before training and then trained normally,” added the Italian. “So all the squad is in good condition.”
With 10 games left, Real have a three-point lead over second-placed city rivals Atletico Madrid, who play at bottom side Real Betis earlier on Sunday. Champions Barca are a point further back in third and defeat on Sunday would severely damage their chances of winning a fifth La Liga title in six years.
Ancelotti said he would be sticking with his preferred midfield of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria at the Bernabeu, when Real will seek to extend their 31-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to a 2-1 La Liga defeat at Barca in October.
Benzema will return at centre forward with Portugal captain and La Liga top scorer Ronaldo on the left and Wales winger Gareth Bale on the right. “The centre of the pitch will be very important tomorrow,” Ancelotti said.”Our midfielders are playing well for a while now and I am confident we can win in that zone of the pitch tomorrow. “Our idea is to play a match that shows off our best qualities. An offensive football, attacking together and defending together.
“I think the difference will be in the collective work of each team and not in the individual qualities of the players. “We are not thinking about a draw because we have a small advantage in that we are playing at home.”
Pique back for Barca
Barcelona meanwhile have defender Gerard Pique available to play but captain and fellow centre back Carles Puyol is out injured, the Spanish champions said on Saturday.
Pique missed last weekend’s 7-0 home win over Osasuna with an ankle problem but is in the squad for the clash at the Bernabeu where Barca will keep alive their bid for a fifth title in six years.
Puyol, who is leaving Barca at the end of the season, is recovering well from a knee injury and should return to training next week, Barca said on their website (www.fcbarcelona.es). Real and Barca will also meet in next month’s King’s Cup final and both are through to the last eight of the Champions League along with Atletico.
Real Betis vs Atletico Madrid
Live on Star Sports 4 at 9.25 pm
REal Madrid vs Barcelona
live on Star Sports 4 at 1.25 am (Monday)