•  The Welshman was the starter in Vila-real in the last absence of Benzema, who ended the game against Mallorca injured and his participation in the Clásico is in danger.

Carlo Ancelotti has a hard time finding a replacement for Karim Benzema and in the Clásico he can find himself in the situation of not having the French striker. The 9 of Real Madrid ended the game against Mallorca sore in the lower part of the calf of his right leg. The white scorer requested the change, but the coach had already exhausted the five substitutions allowed by the regulations. Benzema went to Valdebebas on Tuesday to work with the physiotherapist and tomorrow, Wednesday, he will undergo an MRI to determine if he has an injury and to what extent. If the worst omens are confirmed, Ancelotti will have to find a replacement for his top scorer. A task that, the last one he had to reassign, he entrusted to Gareth Bale.

There have not been many occasions in which Benzema has put Ancelotti in that dilemma. The Frenchman has been a starter in 34 of the 41 games that Real Madrid have played this season. Of his seven absences, four have been due to injury and three due to a technical decision. In those seven games, the Madrid coach has not found a replacement that convinces him. Jovic, Mariano, Asensio, Isco and Bale have played like 9 in those games.

The Serbian is, in theory, Benzema’s first replacement. But when Ancelotti decided to give the Frenchman a rest in the league match in Elche, the coach cited some inconvenience by the Balkan to give Mariano the starting job. The Hispanic-Dominican only started again against Alcoyano in the Cup, a match in which the former Eintracht player was not available due to being sick with covid. Interestingly, Mariano scored the final 2-0 in the last Clásico played at the Bernabéu, before the pandemic.

Ancelotti did turn to Jovic when Benzema was injured against Real Sociedad. The Serbian starred in one of his most brilliant games in the white shirt. He assisted Vinicius in the 0-1, returning a wall to the Brazilian and scored the final 0-2. That performance earned him the title three days later against Inter and being the replacement for Benzema at half-time in the derby. Jovic’s second start (and the last until now) was in the Cup match against Elche. He played 79 minutes, he has only played 73 ‘since then and in Mallorca he did not even sit on the bench (he was one of Ancelotti’s two dismissals) after five unprecedented games.

Ancelotti looks for alternatives

Unsatisfied with the Serbian and without Mariano (also in the infirmary) during the three games that Benzema missed due to injury just before the tie against PSG, Ancelotti opted to explore other alternatives. He had already done it in Elche in the Cup when he changed Jovic. There he placed Isco first (who scored the equalizing goal) and then Hazard. The man from Malaga had already acted as 9 eventually in several final stages of the match and the Belgian had done the same in Alcoy.

In the Cup at San Mamés, the first of the three games that Benzema missed due to that injury, the chosen one was Asensio, who barely attempted a very long shot blocked by Íñigo Martínez. Against Granada he tested Isco for 65 minutes before bringing on Jovic. And, finally, Ancelotti opted in Vila-real for Bale, who left very good feelings and touched the goal. Since that game, the Balkan has not played again and the Welshman only played three minutes in Paris.

The Briton has barely featured in five games for Real Madrid this season. Ancelotti gave him the title in the first three league games and even scored against Levante. But he returned injured from the first international break and did not get his chance again until those two games against Villarreal and PSG. Bale only adds 270 minutes and the aforementioned goal against Levante. In the next break he faces the challenge of keeping alive the dream of qualifying Wales for their first World Cup since 1954. Given Benzema’s doubts, the Clásico could be an opportunity to get ready.

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