Karim Benzema will be out to provide the firepower Real Madrid have been lacking when the striker returns for Saturday’s La Liga clash with Real Betis at the Santiago Bernabeu.
Real’s lack of goals had been well publicised before the first game of the Liga campaign at Sporting Gijon last weekend, having failed to hit the back of the net back of the net against Roma, Milan, Bayern Munich and Valerenga in pre-season.
Rafael Benitez would have seen a trip to newly promoted Sporting as an opportunity to put talk of his side’s lack of a cutting edge to bed, but Real were held to a goalless draw.
Benitez bemoaned a lack of clinical finishing after that stalemate, but will be buoyed by the sight of a fit-again Benzema back in training this week after the France striker recovered from a thigh injury which has kept him on the sidelines for a month.
Benzema, who this week stated he has no intention of leaving the club amid reported interest from Arsenal, has scored in each of his last three games against Betis and will be expected to link up with Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in an attacking trio that should strike fear into any defence in world football.
Bale has recovered from a toe injury and will be out to keep the dissenters who singled him out for criticism last season quiet in what will be Benitez’s first competitive home game in charge.
The Real coach could also include Pepe in his starting line-up after the centre-back was an unused substitute in the draw at Sporting on his return from a thigh muscle problem.
Three players who will not feature at this weekend are Fabio Coentrao, Asier Illarramendi and Lucas Silva after the trio joined Monaco, Real Sociedad and Marseille respectively.
Betis were hammered 5-0 at home the last time the two sides met and will likely be in for another difficult evening in their second game back in the top tier.
Pepe Mel’s side needed late a goal from Ruben Castro to secure a 1-1 draw with Villarreal in their first match back in Liga.
Betis’ former Real goalkeeper Antonio Adan knows the Andalusian outfit will be up against it this weekend, but took heart from fellow promoted side Sporting’s result against the heavyweights.
He said: “The reality is that the match against Real Madrid is going to be difficult, but if we thought it is impossible we wouldn’t play. The other day Sporting Gijon obtained a good result.
“Every year there are chances for a surprise to happen in Santiago Bernabeu, so why can’t be us? Logically, we know that we are going to face one of the best teams in the world, at their home, and in the first match they play in front of their fans. But we are excited to compete there.”
Betis new boy Rafael van der Vaart will not face his former club due to an ankle injury.
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