PSG-Real Madrid: Ancelotti to go with Benzema or Bale in Paris?
Karim Benzema has travelled with Real Madrid for the PSG game but may not be fit to start, leaving Ancelotti with a choice of Bale, Jovic, Isco or Asensio.
As Real Madrid prepare to face PSG at the Parc des Princes in the Champions League on Tuesday, the great incognito for Carlo Ancelotti is whether or not Karim Benzema is fit enough to start, and if he will be able to play the full 90 minutes. For the Italian tactician, it is a conundrum given the Frenchman’s excellent form this season, but Benzema has not played for almost a month after suffering a muscle issue against Elche and has only been able to train lightly before the trip to Paris. Mauricio Pochettino has a similar dilemma with Neymar, who has been out of action since November but is expected to play some part, but it is a measure of Benzema’s importance to Madrid that his will be by far the more keenly felt absence on Tuesday if he is missing.
Real Madrid’s Benzema-dependence is absolute. Not only has he shouldered responsibility for leading the attack and providing the goals – 24 in 28 appearances this season – he also brings the best out of Vinicius, who is not the same player without his strike partner: in the seven games Benzema has missed this season, the Brazilian has found the net only once yet his tally overall stands at 15.
Bale auditions for Paris role against Villarreal
In Madrid’s last three games sans Benzema – against Athletic in the Copa, Granada and Villarreal - the rest of Ancelotti’s squad have managed one goal from 48 shots. Against Villarreal, the Italian elected to play Gareth Bale as a striker, 168 days after the Welshman’s last game for the club. Bale hit the bar and showed flashes of being back to full sharpness and Ancelotti praised his player: “He had his chance and he delivered, he was dangerous and he could have scored. He had a good game,” said the Madrid boss. “He showed that he is committed.”
Luka Jovic was again reduced to watching from the bench in the absence of Madrid’s other two recognized strikers, Benzema and Mariano, and the Serbia forward seems to be firmly out of the picture under Ancelotti. Shorn of Benzema and before turning to Bale, Marco Asensio was tried out as a false nine against Athletic and Isco, who has scarcely been a regular this season, was preferred in the role against Granada.
Ancelotti to wait on Benzema
Ancelotti will cast his eye over Benzema during Madrid’s final training session in Paris and consult with the medical staff, but if the Frenchman can play, he will. Benzema has scored five goals in five Champions League games this season and his overall record in all competitions accounts for 33% of Madrid’s goals in 2021-22, with nine assists.
This will be Benzema’s fifth game against PSG for Real Madrid, with the Frenchman’s record standing at two wins, a defeat and a 2-2 draw in the 2019-20 group stage, the last meeting between the two sides in which he scored both for Madrid.