The start of the new season has been all roses for Real Madrid as the team extended their unbeaten streak to eleven games with their win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday.
While Barcelona lead the La Liga standings, the defending champions are only behind on goal difference. Further, they are well placed to finish top of their group in the UEFA Champions League.
However, the new season has not been as easy for Karim Benzema. The Frenchman has excelled in Ancelotti’s setup as a playmaker but has struggled to recreate his clinical finishing in front of the goal so far this term.
The veteran is tipped to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or later this month ahead of the likes of Erling Haaland, Robert Lewandowski and Kevin de Bruyne. Heading into the weekend’s clash against Real Madrid, Getafe coach Quique Sanchez Flores spoke to the press.
During his media interaction, he took a stance on the Ballon d’Or debate too, backing Benzema to win the coveted award.
“Benzema will be the next Ballon d’Or winner, and if it is not, we will have to doubt those decisions. He is a player who does everything. We are not specifically going to plan against him, but logically he is a player who influences the game a lot,” he said (h/t MARCA).
Last season, the French striker scored 42 goals for Real Madrid across the La Liga and UCL campaigns, while adding two more in the Spanish Super Cup. He single-handedly carried the men in white on several nights. It is not surprising that he is expected to win the award by a record margin.
Benzema’s contract extension with the club is already agreed upon and will be activated the instant he wins the Golden Ball. Needless to say, the manager will hope that he returns to his imperious best in the games to come.
Key Real Madrid defender still not 100% fit ahead of Club World Cup semi-final – report
Carlo Ancelotti heads into the FIFA Club World Cup in a pressure cooker situation. The pressure on the manager’s shoulders is immense, for his job could be on the line after Real Madrid’s poor run of form.
The injury situation does not favour the Italian tactician either. Lucas Vazquez, Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and even Thibaut Courtois are out of the semi-final against Al Ahly, leaving him very few options to play with.
According to reports from Jorge C Picon, David Alaba too is not completely fit yet. The Austrian International was given the medical all-clear and entered the squad for Real Madrid’s game against Mallorca, yet started on the bench as he was not at 100%, and that remains the case ahead of tonight’s clash.
The report, however, adds that his mere inclusion in the squad comes as a breather for Ancelotti. Alaba is highly valued by the technical staff, not only for his reading of the game on the field but also for his leadership.
The defender has already missed seven games for Los Blancos since sustaining a muscular injury against Villarreal at La Ceramica. He did indeed come off the bench for under half an hour against Mallorca, but will likely not be risked to start on Thursday.
In his absence, Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger are expected to take centre stage in defence in Morocco. Eduardo Camavinga, meanwhile, could start as left-back again.
Alaba has played 17 games for Los Blancos this season and was one of the players with the most minutes until his injury. In his league campaign so far, he has scored one goal and provided three assists while also averaging a key pass every ninety minutes.
It remains to be seen if the Austrian recovers completely in time for the Club World Cup final should the European Champions make it. As it stands, using a cautious approach is in Real Madrid’s best interest.