February can be considered to be the most important month for a European football club that are regular title challengers in their respective league and are almost a guaranteed fixture beyond the group stage of the continental competition. Real Madrid falls under that category as they find themselves at the top of La Liga, with a titanic Round of 16, 1st leg clash against Paris Saint-Germain coming up in a few days in the UEFA Champions League. However, they might just have to make do without their talisman, Karim Benzema.
Ever since Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid in July 2018, Karim Benzema has almost single-handedly carried the goalscoring burden of the team, transforming not only into a consistent goalscorer, but also a leader. A leader that has never let his team down. Besides that, he is coming off what might probably be his best year as a footballer in 2021. Benzema is finally getting the recognition he so profoundly deserved during all these years.
The only thing that could have seemed to stop him from producing masterclass after masterclass was an injury. And that is exactly what has happened to the Frenchman, who is out on the sidelines due to a contracture on his ischial muscle that he suffered in an agonizing 2-2 draw against Elche a few weeks ago.
Real Madrid’s No. 9 is set to miss the league game against Villarreal this weekend, with doubts hanging over his availability for the heavyweight clash against PSG. Ahead of Real Madrid’s match against the Yellow Submarine, coach Carlo Ancelotti provided some clarity on Benzema’s recovery in the post-match presser:
“The most important thing is the health of the player. The risk does not exist. If there is a risk, we are not going to take it. We have to evaluate it well, but if he plays on Tuesday it is because there is no risk,” said the Italian when asked if Benzema will return to the squad to face PSG. “We have good feelings. We will see if he will train on Sunday, or on Monday with the team. Everyone’s feelings are positive, but it will be decided on Sunday or Monday,” he further added.
Based on these comments, you’d understand Ancelotti won’t shy away from using the services of his most capable player if the need be. He is not afraid to “risk” Benzema even though he says that he will only play if there is no risk.
Sergio Ramos rushed back to play Chelsea and was never the same since
Those comments have intrigued me and have provoked me to ponder about the consequences if Benzema does take the field against PSG on Tuesday night. It gives me the flashbacks of that forgettable night at Stamford Bridge when Sergio Ramos rushed back into the starting XI against Chelsea in the 2nd leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final. Ramos hasn’t caught a break since that fateful night.
With Benzema 34 now, age is slowly but surely catching onto him. Injuries have a different and more lasting effect on a player, for obvious reasons. Risking a player during such a time can have serious implications. Sergio Ramos is a prime example of such a situation.
The Spaniard, ever since that night in London, hasn’t had a consistent run of games under his belt. He has made just five appearances for PSG. It is disheartening to see the Real Madrid legend struggling to overcome his injury battle.
Karim Benzema could be headed down a similar path if he is risked by Carlo Ancelotti time and again. In my humble opinion, Benzema should be left out of the squad that will take on PSG at Parc des Princes. With the return of Gareth Bale and Luka Jović, and Isco proving to be a decent false 9, Real Madrid have a lot of options on the table in the absence of Benzema.
Real Madrid are still alive in two competitions. They are leading La Liga, but recent performances do not thwart away any possibility of slipping up in the coming weeks. PSG do provide a very tough challenge to Los Blancos in the UCL Round of 16, but I believe Carlo’s men are capable enough of taking the tie to the 2nd Leg, for which Benzema will be fully fit. And you can bet he will need his best players fit and firing in the final few months of the season.
Carlo Ancelotti hasn’t been very good with rotations this season, even though he might say otherwise. And his over-reliability of certain players might result in the faltering of what has been a promising season so far. The ghosts of the 2014-15 season might return too. Karim Benzema should not and cannot be a victim of Ancelotti’s stubbornness. If that happens, we might see history repeat itself. And this time, another Real Madrid legend will have to bear the brunt.