Mariano has yet to start a game for Lopetegui, but Benzema's injury now gives the Spanish-Dominican an opportunity to usurp the out-of-form French striker.
Karim Benzema’s hamstring injury will see him out of action for two to three weeks – meaning the Frenchman will definitely miss the visit of Levante to the Bernabéu on October 20, and probably the Champions League home fixture against Viktoria Plzen three days later.
There even remains a doubt on whether he will be fit enough for the trip to the Camp Nou to face Barcelona on October 28, although the club’s physios are confident that he won’t be a problem for that crucial “El Clásico” encounter.
Step in Mariano
Benzema’s likely absence for both games against Levante and Viktoria Plzen opens up a space for Mariano to come into coach Julen Lopetegui’s starting XI for the first time.
Since his arrival, the former Lyon player has sat on the bench for eight games, playing a part in five of those matches. The longest he has featured has been the 45 minutes against Alavés last weekend, when he came on for Benzema at half time.
So far Mariano has one goal his name: the wonder goal he scored against Roma just 17 minutes after he entered the pitch. He nearly added a second to his tally when he hit the post against CSKA Moscow last week – a game in which the Spanish-Dominican was the best player in a Madrid side lacking in dynamism.
Mariano has shot to usurp out-of-form Benzema
Lopetegui has constantly reiterated his confidence in Mariano, but also in Benzema, who has started in all of Madrid’s 11 games so far this season. The Frenchman, however, has recently not shown himself to be deserving of the coach’s confidence. He started the campaign well, scoring five goals in four games, but since then he has disappeared, failing to score or make an impression in the last seven.
The two games against Levante and Viktoria Plzen after the international break this weekend could be the opportunity for Mariano to claim his starting place as centre forward, with el Clásico just around the corner. In a Madrid side that has failed to score in its last four games, the Spanish-Dominican now has a shot at making himself an integral part of Lopetegui’s plans.