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Real’s Benzema fit for ‘Clasico’ — Ancelotti

By Reuters - Mar 22,2014 - Last updated at Mar 22,2014

MADRID — Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has recovered from a bruised thigh and is available for Sunday’s La Liga ‘Clasico’ (2000 GMT) at home to Barcelona, coach Carlo Ancelotti said on Saturday.

Benzema took a knock in a collision with teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in last weekend’s 1-0 La Liga win at Malaga and the France international missed Tuesday’s Champions League game against Schalke 04.

“Benzema has recovered well and he trained with the rest of the team today without any problems,” Ancelotti told a news conference.

“We had a small problem with Isco who arrived with a mild cold and had some treatment before training and then trained normally,” added the Italian. “So all the squad is in good condition.”

With 10 games left, Real have a three-point lead over second-placed city rivals Atletico Madrid, who play at bottom side Real Betis earlier on Sunday (1600).

Champions Barca are a point further back in third and defeat on Sunday would severely damage their chances of winning a fifth La Liga title in six years.

Ancelotti said he would be sticking with his preferred midfield of Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria at the Bernabeu, when Real will seek to extend their 31-match unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to a 2-1 La Liga defeat at Barca in October.

Benzema will return at centre forward with Portugal captain and La Liga top scorer Ronaldo on the left and Wales winger Gareth Bale on the right.

“The centre of the pitch will be very important tomorrow,” Ancelotti said.

“Our midfielders are playing well for a while now and I am confident we can win in that zone of the pitch tomorrow.

“Our idea is to play a match that shows off our best qualities. An offensive football, attacking together and defending together.

“I think the difference will be in the collective work of each team and not in the individual qualities of the players.

“We are not thinking about a draw because we have a small advantage in that we are playing at home.”

Real and Barca will also meet in next month’s King’s Cup final and both are through to the last eight of the Champions League along with Atletico.

The 'Clasico’ in numbers 

The numbers behind Sunday’s “Clasico” between Real Madrid and Barcelona at the Bernabeu Stadium (2000 GMT).

1 - The number of ‘Clasico’ games Real coach Carlo Ancelotti and his Barca counterpart Gerardo Martino have each presided over, a 2-1 win for Barca at the Nou Camp at the end of October.

Italian Ancelotti and Argentine Martino replaced Jose Mourinho and Tito Vilanova respectively at the end of last season. 

18 - The number of goals scored by Barca’s Argentina forward Lionel Messi in official “Clasicos”.

The four-times World Player of the Year is the highest scorer among current members of either squad and is joint-top on the all-time list with Real great Alfredo Di Stefano. Cristiano Ronaldo has 12 for Real. 

18 - The number of cards the most booked player, former Real and Spain defender Fernando Hierro, collected in official ‘Clasicos’ (17 yellow and one red).

31 - The number of games in all competitions that Real are unbeaten in since they lost to Barca in October. Of those they have won 26 and drawn five.

44 - The record number of “Clasico” appearances made by Real’s Paco Gento. Among active players, Barca playmaker Xavi has the most with 38, ahead of Real goalkeeper Iker Casillas on 34 and Barca defender Carles Puyol on 32. 

90 - Real have beaten Barca 90 times in official matches, with 88 wins for Barca and 48 draws.

226 - The number of official ‘Clasicos’ played since the pair’s first encounter in the last four of the Spanish Cup on May 13, 1902, which Barca won 3-1.

380 - The number of goals Real have scored in official ‘Clasicos’, 14 more than Barca.


Source:  Reuters 

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