The importance of Benzema for Real Madrid as Copa dream ends
Real Madrid were knocked out of the Copa del Rey by Athletic Bilbao, leaving Carlo Ancelotti to rue the absence of Karim Benzema.
Carlo Ancelotti admitted Real Madrid missed the quality of Karim Benzema as he claimed their Copa del Rey exit to Athletic Bilbao was not a surprise.
No Benzema, no goals
The LaLiga leaders were beaten 1-0 at San Mames on Thursday, Alex Berenguer scoring a brilliant winner in the 89th minute to send Athletic into the semi-finals.
It was a measure of revenge for Marcelino's men, who lost 2-0 in the Supercopa de Espana final to Madrid last month, in which Benzema scored the second goal.
Los Blancos were without their talisman in the Basque country, though, as he had not recovered from a hamstring injury sustained in the 2-2 draw with Elche.
In the absence of Benzema, who has scored 24 goals in 28 appearances this season, Madrid managed just two shots on target against Athletic, while their first-half expected goals figure of 0.1 was their lowest since January 2020.
Ancelotti accepted the decision not to rush Benzema back into action left his side without enough of a threat going forward.
"We're hurt because we want to win everything. I don't think it will have consequences. I only hope that it makes us stronger," he said to Spanish media of the defeat.
"We don't have players of Karim's quality. We didn't change the plan. We tried to play from the back, and we couldn't. Athletic's pressing was really great until the 70th minute.
"I think in extra time we would have had the advantage, but they scored in the last minute. We played too much on the wings. We should have used [David] Alaba and Casemiro more. It didn't go the way we wanted.
"It's not the worst game of the season. It was even until the end. I'm not surprised with how the game went."
Even as Madrid's attack laboured, Ancelotti left Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and Luka Jovic on the bench, his only changes being Isco for Toni Kroos and Eduardo Camavinga for Vinicius Junior.
It was put to Ancelotti that the trio were being punished by being kept among the substitutes, but he replied: "I have nothing to say. Nobody is punished. [Dani] Ceballos and [Jesus] Vallejo didn't play, either. They're at the same level as the others who didn't play. You have to be fair.
"Kroos was taken off due to fatigue, as was Vinicius. We were thinking of changes for extra time and there wasn't time."
Madrid's next match is at home to Granada in LaLiga on Sunday.