Karim Benzema has been Real Madrid’s best player by a mile over the past few years. Despite the ageing core and rapidly changing environment in the team, the Frenchman has delivered world-class performances week in and week out.
Unsurprisingly, Los Blancos’ slump in form coincides with Benzema’s injury. Though initially thought of as a small niggle, the French international’s recovery has not progressed well. This has put his participation in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 into doubt.
Ahead of their clash against the men in white, PSG’s Presnel Kimpembe has had only praise for Benzema and his role at Real Madrid. Speaking about playing against the striker, Kimpembe confessed that it was a difficult task (h/t UEFA).
“For me it’s difficult to defend on Benzema because he’s very intelligent in his movements, with his touches, he always avoids duels. He is a player who anticipates what is going to happen.”
He then revealed the protocol one must follow to successfully defend against Benzema and explained why it was difficult.
“To defend players like him, you have to anticipate or be on top of him as soon as he touches the ball. He has a very good vision of the game and he also knows his opponents well. He is a world-class striker, so it will not be easy to stop him.”
Benzema has travelled with Real Madrid to Paris. He feels he is ready and his body is well. The final decision will lie with Carlo Ancelotti, who well knows the risks of hurrying the player from his injury.
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.