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REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Benzema out, Vinicius in for Villarreal

Real Madrid: Benzema out, Vinicius in for Villarreal

Alex Capparos

Getty Images

The Frenchman will not be fit in time for the visit of the Yellow Submarine but the Brazilian should make his first appearance in two months.

There have been few bright points in what has been a dismal season for Real Madrid but the blossoming talent of Vinicius Junior and the goal-scoring prowess of Karim Benzema have at least given Madridismo something to cling to as the club looks to emerge from the footballing wilderness in 2019-20.

In recent weeks Benzema has been the team’s leader, occasionally sporting the armband in the absence of Marcelo and Sergio Ramos, but always coaxing by example despite the season being effectively over for Madrid. The Frenchman had scored in eight consecutive league fixtures before being ruled out of the 0-0 draw against Getafe with a hamstring injury, a game where he could have matched his own record for goals in a single campaign. He was also absent for the defeat at Rayo that summed up Real’s season so succinctly that Zinedine Zidane apologized after the game.

The bad news for Madrid, and Benzema in his quest to match or better 32 goals in a season, is that the forward is extremely unlikely to be named in the squad for this weekend’s match against Villarreal despite returning to training this week.

Vinicius ready for return against Villarreal

The good news for those Real fans that bother to turn up at the Bernabéu is that Vinicius, who has been out of action since rupturing ligaments in his knee against Ajax in early March, is finally ready to return to the starting XI. Zidane has been holding back the 18-year-old to ensure there is no risk of a recurrence but now feels that the Brazilian is fully fit after a couple of weeks of full-contact training at Valdebebas and should be in the line-up when the Yellow Submarine visit.

Among those who won’t be are Sergio Ramos and Álvaro Odriozola, who are both still coming back from their respective injuries, and possibly Keylor Navas, with Zidane expected to hand Thibaut Courtois another start as he seeks to decide on his number one for next season, a role that Navas did himself no harm of performing after his one-man show in Getafe.

Mariano, Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente all seem to have been handed their notices already, with all three starting and failing to impress at Rayo after being left out of the squad entirely for the trip to Getafe. Gareth Bale’s future remains up in the air and it remains to be seen if the Welshman makes way for Vinicius on Sunday.

Elsewhere, Jesús Vallejo may get another chance to stake his claim at the back in the absence of Ramos while youth teamer Dani Fernández, also a defender, has been training with the first team this week and may make the bench.