Karim Benzema, Antoine Griezmann fit to play in Madrid derby
While Benzema is Real Madrid’s top choice to accompany Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in attack, Griezmann’s importance to Atletico isfootball Updated: Nov 19, 2016 09:09 IST
Karim Benzema and Antoine Griezmann are fit to play Saturday’s Spanish capital derby between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.
While Benzema is Madrid’s top choice to accompany Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in attack, Griezmann’s importance to Atletico is paramount.
Griezmann has scored eight goals for his club this season and should join Yannick Carrasco and Kevin Gameiro in attack for Atletico’s home match. He was doubtful because of a foot knock picked up while playing for France until Atletico’s team doctors cleared him after Friday’s late practice.
“I have the good fortune to have a football player (like Griezmann) who wants to keep improving and is as talented as he is,” Atletico manager Diego Simeone said.
Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane picked Benzema, but he didn’t reveal if he will start Benzema or place him in the reserves.
“He is better, and if he is on the squad then he can play,” Zidane said.
Benzema was in doubt because of a lingering hip problem. He has five goals in 13 appearances this season.
Zidane will be without his other pure striker, Alvaro Morata, who injured a hamstring while playing for Spain over the international break.
Once the capital’s dominant team, Madrid hasn’t beaten Atletico in six consecutive league derbies, although it has topped its cross-town rival in two Champions League finals during that stretch.
Zidane gave credit to Simeone for transforming Atletico since his arrival midway through the 2011-12 season.
“Atletico gets better year after year,” Zidane said. “It has a coach that has changed so many things. He is doing a phenomenal job. Everybody always says Atletico defends well, but it is so much more than that.”
Madrid is also in fine form.
Madrid’s defeat to Atletico last February marked the start of a remarkable run for Zidane’s side, which hasn’t lost in the league since - a run of 23 matches.
Besides Benzema, Madrid will also have back Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric after both recovered from knee problems, although Modric will be without fellow midfielders Toni Kroos and Casemiro due to injuries.
Atletico has most of its midfielders, led by playmaker Jorge “Koke” Resurreccion, to choose from, including Nicolas Gaitan, who has recovered from a leg injury that sidelined him from Argentina’s most recent World Cup qualifiers.
Madrid leads the league and has a six-point advantage over fourth-place Atletico.
But Simeone said that his team’s main source of inspiration is the chance to win what will likely be the last derby played at the Vicente Calderon before Atletico moves to its new stadium.
“What we are focusing on is managing our emotions for what will be the last derby against our eternal rival in our home,” Simeone said. “Being nine, six or three points behind is not our concern right now. I know our fans will be like they always are. We need our ‘12th player’ and I don’t need to tell them that.”
Defending champion Barcelona, which hosts Malaga on Saturday, is in second place two points adrift of Madrid.