BARCELONA (AFP) – Real Madrid may need their supporting cast to step up against Osasuna and help the champions keep the pressure on La Liga leaders Barcelona, amid doubts over Karim Benzema’s fitness.
Victory at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday against Elche cut Barcelona’s lead to eight points and Madrid could make further inroads today.
With the Catalans not in action until tomorrow against Cadiz after their Europa League draw with Manchester United, Madrid can move to within five points of the leaders.
French forward Benzema returned from injury to help Real Madrid win the Club World Cup last weekend and then netted a brace from the penalty spot midweek against Elche.
Ballon d’Or holder Benzema has endured a stop-start season because of injury, missing France’s World Cup campaign and subsequently retiring from international duty.
The 35-year-old striker has only been able to play in 13 of Madrid’s 21 league games this season, scoring 11 goals, but reports in Spain suggest he may not make the trip to Pamplona.
Vinicius Junior will return after suspension and along with Rodrygo, Marcos Asensio and Fede Valverde, coach Carlo Ancelotti has more attacking options if Benzema is kept in cotton wool ahead of Madrid’s Champions League clash with Liverpool next week.
Benzema returned from a thigh problem to score against Al-Hilal in the Club World Cup final in Morocco, then moved on to 230 La Liga goals against Elche, making him the fifth highest goalscorer of all time in the Spanish top flight.