Griezmann, Benzema: Madrid derby with a French twist
Griezmann has scored five goals in 19 derbies; Benzema four in 31. In current form, who would bet against either player adding to their tally this Saturday at the Wanda?
Saturday’s Madrid derby has a touch of French flavour like never before. There could be up to five French players on the pitch (three for Atléti, two for Madrid) when things kick off at the Wanda Metropolitano, where Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann will be charged with finding the goals and leading their respective sides to victory.
Both players have enjoyed the greatest moments of their respective careers. Griezmann finally overcame his great challenge of not having won a title, lifting the Europa League title with club and the World Cup with country last year. His performance had put him in the running for the Ballon d’Or, but in the end, much to his disappointment, he came in third, losing out to Benzema’s Madrid team mate Luka Modric.
Benzema, meanwhile, added a fourth Club World Cup and fourth Champions League title to his list of honours. There were doubts about the Frenchman earlier this season. But in recent weeks he has shown himself to be a true leader in the post-Cristiano era, and is now finding the goals to offset those that left with the Portuguese.
Last season, both Griezmann and Benzema were subject to whistles from the home crowd in their own stadiums, but they have since managed to silence their critics. Griezmann was jeered because he had received an offer from Barcelona that some Atlético fans had assumed he had accepted. Eventually, however, he decided to stay, signing a new contract and showing his commitment to the Atlético project. Madrid fans at the Bernabéu whistled his compatriot because of his lack of goals and apparent lack of desire for the Madrid cause. But his recent form, and the goals that have gone with it, has got the Madrid faithful back on his side.
Benzema has now scored 18 goals this season -- making him second highest goal scorer in Spain along with Sevilla’s Ben Yedder -- and provided six assists. Griezmann, meanwhile, has 15 goals to his tally and eight assists. Both players are the highest scorers for their respective clubs this season, and have each netted ten goals in the league.
Following his omission from France, Griezmann was one of Benzema’s most vocal supporters publically. “France misses him because he is a great player. It is easy to connect with him on the field. With him, playing is easy,” he said in an interview with Le Monde in 2016. “I would like him to return,” he told L’Equipe in 2017.
Unfortunately that has not happened and so the pair will have to settle to sharing a field as rivals in the Madrid derby – a fixture Griezmann has played 19 times, with five goals to his name; Benzema 31 times with four goals. In current form, who would bet against either player adding to their tally this Saturday at the Wanda?