Fans pick Mariano over Benzema for El Clásico start

More than 20,000 people voted in the poll to chose their favoured centre-forward for the game against Barcelona. Mariano came out on top, while fans even preferred the injured Morata over Benzema. France-England live

La afición considera que Mariano es el mejor '9' para el Madrid

Barcelona - Real Madrid Live

Mariano’s hat-trick bagging performance against Cultural Leonesa on Wednesday has convinced Real Madrid fans that he is their man for El Clásico ahead of Karim Benzema.

In a poll conducted by AS asking fans to choose their preferred centre-forward for Saturday’s match versus Barcelona, an overwhelming 46.16% of supporters selected the Spanish-Dominican striker in front of 18.35% who voted for Benzema and the 35.49% that favoured Morata (even though the Spaniard is still injured).

Mariano: one goal every 33 minutes 

Mariano has had to make do with little action this campaign after initially impressing in pre-season, but made a claim for himself with his three goals in the Copa del Rey in midweek. Despite playing only 130 minutes this season so far, his goal ratio says a lot for the young striker’s tenacity: with four goals he’s hit the net once every 33 minutes on average.

Benzema criticism 

Benzema however has faced heavy criticism recently due to some lethargic performances and a general lack of effectiveness in front of goal – something which the Frenchman responded to on Thursday ahead of El Clásico.

Morata still injured 

Morata meanwhile had arguably been Real Madrid’s most impressive forward until suffering an injury on duty with Spain last month. The 23-year old started the season as second-choice behind Benzema, but after making a continual impact from the bench – and grabbing vital goals – he began to push for a regular starting spot before Benzema got injured.

With Benzema and Morata’s spells on the sidelines having overlapped, it’s still uncertain what Zidane will do when he has both fit again. As for Mariano, despite fans calls for him to be promoted, it’s unlikely he’ll start at Camp Nou on Saturday, and could even still be heading out on loan in January.