Sharpshooting Benzema fit to return in Madrid derby
Karim Benzema, the most effective striker in La Liga this season in terms of goals per minutes, is set to return for Real Madrid’s home derby with Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
The France marksman missed last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Malaga with hip trouble, a result that left his team nine points adrift of runaway leaders Barcelona with 13 matches remaining, but is now back in full training.
Real coach Zinedine Zidane is defending an eight-match unbeaten run in all competitions since taking charge in January and plans to field his strongest available side although he is without Wales forward Gareth Bale (calf problem).
Benzema, who netted in the 1-1 draw at Atletico in October, has scored 19 league goals this term in 1,435 minutes of playing time, one every 75 minutes.
That is a quicker rate than Barcelona’s Luis Suarez who is La Liga’s top scorer with 25 in 2,150 minutes, a ratio of one goal in every 86 minutes.
Benzema will be looking to come out on top in a duel of rival France strikers with Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann.
Alongside him for Real will be Cristiano Ronaldo, La Liga’s second highest scorer with 22 goals, who says his team must not give up on the title.
“This is an important match, in front of our fans, against tough rivals who defend well,” Ronaldo told the club website (www.realmadrid.com).
“It’s a match we must win…we know La Liga is complicated but we have to fight to the end.”
Second-placed Atletico, eight points behind Barcelona, go into the game having drawn 0-0 at PSV Eindhoven in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie on Wednesday.
Diego Simeone’s side have been typically mean in defence all season, conceding a La Liga low 11 goals in 25 matches, but they were held to a 0-0 home draw by Villarreal last weekend.
Barcelona, fresh from their 2-0 Champions League win at Arsenal on Tuesday, entertain Sevilla on Sunday in a dress rehearsal for the King’s Cup final to be played on May 22.