Karim Benzema would not have played if Real Madrid’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg with Liverpool was on Saturday, says head coach Carlo Ancelotti.
Ancelotti ruled out Benzema from featuring at Osasuna in LaLiga this weekend as Madrid look to chase down leaders Barcelona, who currently hold an eight-point lead.
Benzema missed the World Cup with France with a thigh injury, and he was also absent for Madrid’s league defeat to Real Mallorca and the Club World Cup semi-final victory over Al Ahly with a muscular issue.
The Ballon d’Or winner did then play and score in the Club World Cup final against Al Hilal and netted twice against Elche in midweek.
Madrid appear to be managing Benzema with a focus on big matches, but Ancelotti insisted on Friday he would not have been able to call on the striker the following day regardless of the opposition.
The European champions visit Liverpool in their next match on Tuesday.
“If the match were against Liverpool tomorrow, I wouldn’t play him either,” Ancelotti told reporters. “We prefer not to risk him.
“He’s a bit tired, like many players, it’s true, but he’s coming back from an injury, so it’s different.
“We hope he will be there by Tuesday.”
@Benzema equals @RaulGonzalez as the player with the third highest number of victories in Real Madrid history!
— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) February 15, 2023
Ancelotti acknowledged Benzema’s advancing age contributes to the requirement for extra precautions to be taken to ensure he is fit and available at the business end of the campaign.
“After the World Cup, he has done very well,” the Madrid boss added. “He has scored in almost every game.
“He is not injured. We simply prefer, due to his age, to give him rest. And that way he will be well for the rest of the season.”
Madrid bounced back from the 1-0 loss at Mallorca with a 4-0 thrashing of Elche, but with Barcelona winning 11 of their past 12 league matches, Ancelotti knows his team must carry on taking maximum points to keep up with the rampant pace Xavi’s men are setting at the summit.
“The goal is to get [the gap] to five points for the moment,” Ancelotti explained. “The calendar is demanding, with important matches, and we want to keep the good feeling.
“We’re good, but we can improve even more, and we’re going for it. In football, you can go from the best to the worst in no time, and vice versa.”
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