REAL MADRID

Real Madrid: Benzema looks to end 41-day drought against Valladolid

Benzema has gone five games without a goal for Madrid, with his last one coming against Valencia on December 15. He has scored three goals on his last three visits to Valladolid.

Real Madrid: Benzema looks to end drought against Valladolid
NurPhoto via Getty Images

2020 has yet to bring a goal for Karim Benzema, at least for now. The French striker, Real Madrid’s main source of goals, is currently going through his first drought during a season in which he has scored with more regularity than almost all of his ten previous seasons at the Bernabéu.

Benzema last scored on December 15 in the 1-1 draw with Valencia at Mestalla, where his unforgettable 95th minute goal rescued a last-gasp draw for Los Blancos. While he did not participate in the two Spanish Super Cup fixtures in Saudi Arabia because of injury, the 32-year-old forward has still had enough opportunities over the past 41 days to find the net.

Since Valencia, he has played a total of 364 minutes over five games: 90’ against Barcelona; 90’ against Athletic Bilbao, 81’ against Getafe, 28’ against Sevilla and 75’ in Salamanca against Unionistas. Over those five games, he has had 14 attempts at goal (eight of which have been on target), averaging 2.8 shots per game. That is well below his average this season of 3.33 attempts per game. But his problem has not been a lack of opportunities: he is still the player who has had both the most total shots (66) and the most on target (35) for Madrid this season.

After a quiet 75 minutes against Unionistas mid-week, the Frenchman will look to put an end to his drought at Valladolid on Sunday, where he will lead the Madrid attack again with Rodrygo likely to play alongside him.

Benzema will take encouragement from his record against El Pucela at the Estadio José Zorrilla: three goals from three visits. In the last meeting between the two sides at the Zorrilla in March, 2019, he twice found the net in the 4-1 win. That game happened to be Santiago Solari’s last on the Madrid bench, with the return of Zidane made official the following day.

Benzema in action against Unionistas.

Messi leads Benzema in race for Pichichi

Madrid have depended heavily on the French striker. With 16 goals, he has scored 28% of Madrid’s 58 goals this season. What Los Blancos are missing is an attacking partner for Benzema who can score regularly. Rodrygo has six goals but the young Brazilian has not scored since the Champions League game against Club Brugge on December 11, while his last LaLiga goal came on October 30. Gareth Bale, meanwhile, has scored just three goals; Vinicius, two; and Luka Jovic, just one.

Before his drought began, Benzema had been leading the race for the Pichichi with 12 goals from 16 games. However, Lionel Messi, who missed five of Barcelona’s first seven LaLiga games of the season due to injury, has left him in the rear-view mirror: the Argentine now has 14 goals, two more than his Madrid revival. Having had much less participation this season, Messi has averaged a goal in LaLiga every 90 minutes; while Benzema’s average has fallen to a goal every 133 minutes.

On the back of his scoring rate during the first 16 games of the season, Benzema had his sights on surpassing his 24-goal LaLiga record set in 2015-16. He still may beat that milestone but, right now, he has set a more realistic projection of 23 goals. Although, there is little concern at Madrid over the recent drought of their number ‘9’, who still enjoys the complete confidence of Zidane and the club. Talks to renew the 32-year-old’s contract beyond 2022 are already underway, with an agreement set to be confirmed by the end of the season.

Lionel Messi leads Benzema in the race for the Pichichi with 14 goals.

Benzema close to joining ‘Club 500’

Benzema marked his 491st game for Real Madrid against Salamanca (335 wins, 238 goals) and is currently 15th on the list of players with the most all-time caps for the club.

The Frenchman finds himself on the verge of joining the select club of 12 players who have 500+ caps for Los Blancos. Of those 12 players, currently only one is a non-Spaniard – Roberto Carlos with 527 caps. Although Marcelo (449 caps) is just one game away from joining his compatriot in the ‘500 Club’.