Real Madrid: Ancelotti's plan of action for PSG clash
Benzema continues to work with the physios, but he and Mendy will play against PSG. However, he will be rested against Villarreal on Saturday.
On Tuesday 15 February, Carlo Ancelotti will field his strongest XI in Paris to take on PSG, a team comprised of the new galácticos, built with Qatari funding. All eyes will be on two players, curiously, both French - Karim Benzema and Férland Mendy. They are the only two players in Madrid's first team squad who are carrying injury problems. Ancelotti's star line-up in Paris will be formed by Courtois; Carvajal, Militão, Alaba, Mendy; Casemiro, Kroos, Modric; Asensio, Benzema and Vinicius.
Both players have been working hard in Valdebebas over the past few days to be declared fit to play. For Ancelotti, both will play key part in this Last 16 tie. Mendy is his first-choice at left-back (while Marcelo has quality going forward, he is not as strong defensively) and Benzema for his experience and for being the leader in Madrid's three-man attack. You only need to watch footage of the 1-0 defeat at San Mamés and the Granada game at the Bernabéu to see just how much Madrid depend on him.
Benzema likely to miss Villarreal trip
Karim had been working flat out with club physios - sometimes up to four hours a day in Valdebebas, which is why he still has not returned to train with the main group. It would be crazy to risk him aggravating his condition at this stage, which is why Benzema is likely to be rested for Saturday's league game away at Villarreal. Ancelotti is convinced that he will be able to start Tuesday's clash in Paris and Karim and vowed to do everything he can to be available. Benzema knows that he will be up against his good friend Mbappé and that both forwards' performances will be closely scrutinised and compared in France. Yesterday's workout and today's were identical - physiotherapy followed by jogging and finished off with ball work. Nothing too strenuous and no risks.
Mendy meanwhile, has completed part of the last two training sessions with the group. That suggests he will be cleared to play at least part of Saturday's game against Villarreal. Ancelotti could stick with Marcelo, who looked solid against Granada and bring Mendy on for the final 20-30 minutes so that at least he some game time ahead of the PSG meeting.
Vini, Isco, Asensio
Karim, who has contributed 24 goals and nine assists already this season, will remain in the capital. Vinicius is back from suspension and Ancelotti knows that it is wise to make sure the team's top scorer has recovered in time for bigger battles. Unless Benzema suffers a relapse to his hamstring injury in the next few days, he will travel with the squad to Paris.
Ancelotti has only been able to field his star XI once this season - against Atlético in the derby at the Bernabéu on 12 December. Madrid comfortably won 2-0 with goals from Benzema and Asensio, both set up by Vinicius.
Luka Jovic is an option in attack against Villarreal although with it being an away game, against one of LaLiga's most demanding rivals, Ancelotti could repeat a frontline comprising Isco as a false No.9 with Asensio on the right and Vinicius on the left. In just 72 hours, Madrid will be playing two crucial game which could determine their progress in LaLiga and the Champions League...