Zidane hopeful on Benzema availability for blockbuster Madrid derby

By Sports Desk March 01, 2021

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane is hopeful his leading marksman Karim Benzema will be available to return from injury in Sunday's huge LaLiga derby against leaders Atletico Madrid.

Benzema is Madrid's top-scorer this season with 17 goals in all competitions but has missed their past three games due to an unspecified knock.

The France international's finishing touch was missed in Monday's 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad, which leaves third-placed Los Blancos five points behind Atletico having played a game more.

"We hope he can be with us, but we have to wait and see because he still hasn't trained with the team," Zidane said.

"We'll assess the situation tomorrow. He's OK. Karim's injury is much better and we'll take a look at him."

In Benzema's absence, Madrid have collected two 1-0 wins plus the 1-1 draw with Sociedad, so his attacking prowess has been missed.

Highly rated 20-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior came off the bench to rescue a point for Zidane's side against Sociedad, scoring in the 89th minute for his third league goal of the campaign.

"I’m pleased he got the goal," Zidane said.

"We picked up a point and now we have to move on. It's the result of his hard work and effort. That's what we all have to keep doing."

Zidane remains bullish about Madrid's title hopes, with Atletico having stumbled in recent matches, collecting eight points from a possible 15, while they were also beaten by Chelsea in the Champions League last week.

Barcelona moved past Madrid into second with their 2-0 win at Sevilla on Saturday.

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    Hazard has been restricted to only 14 appearances in a frustrating injury-hit campaign for the LaLiga champions.

    The Belgium international recovered from a hip injury to make a substitute appearance in a 2-1 win over Elche last month but sustained another setback.

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    There were concerns over Toni Kroos' fitness for the trip to Merseyside after the Germany midfielder came off in the win over Barca, but he was named in the squad, along with Federico Valverde, who was also a doubt.

    In-form Madrid will also be without injured defenders Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane once again.

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    Kane is reportedly wanted by Manchester United and Manchester City, while Salah has previously been linked with Madrid and Barcelona.

     

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  • Atletico boss Simeone tells LaLiga hopefuls to 'resist' in title push as injuries mount Atletico boss Simeone tells LaLiga hopefuls to 'resist' in title push as injuries mount

    Diego Simeone called on hobbling Atletico Madrid to "resist" in their LaLiga title hunt as the club's injuries pile up following a 1-1 draw with Real Betis.

    Atletico returned to the top of the table, ahead of defending champions Real Madrid and Barcelona, after sharing the spoils at Betis in a thrilling encounter on Sunday.

    Yannick Carrasco scored their quickest goal of the season, timed at four minutes, 36 seconds, for Atletico. However, Cristian Tello struck back for European hopefuls Betis 15 minutes later.

    Already without Luis Suarez, Marcos Llorente, Moussa Dembele and Geoffrey Kondogbia due to injury, Atletico saw star Joao Felix suffer an ankle injury, while full-back Kieran Trippier had to be replaced with a back injury.

    As the injuries mount, Atletico head coach Simeone said: "In the second half we suffered. But I have footballers who give everything.

    "We are in a moment of resistance. Resist, that's a word that appeals to me. Resist, like all of society in these difficult times."

    Chasing four home wins in a row for the first time since April 2018, Betis had the better of the second half, though Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak stood firm when called upon and his counterpart Claudio Bravo made a superb late stop from Angel Correa to preserve a deserved point.

    Atletico have scored 52 goals after 30 league games this season (1.73 goals per game). The last LaLiga winner with as few or fewer goals at this stage of the season were Fabio Capello's Real Madrid in 2006-07 (42 goals).

    Correa has delivered 10 assists in all competitions this term, equalling the best tally in his six seasons at Atletico (level with 2016-17 campaign). The Argentinian has scored only four goals, however, which is his lowest tally at this stage of the season.

    Oblak has made at least three saves in the last four games for Atletico across all competitions (14 saves on aggregate, four against Betis) – his longest run with at least three saves this season.

    Simeone added: "We will see what happens, all the teams have a moment of irregularity and hopefully we have passed it after today's draw.

    "We have maintained a firm and strong step this season as both Madrid and Barcelona have begun to recover so we will wait and see."

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