Karim Benzema has recovered from injury ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League clash with Liverpool on Wednesday, with Carlo Ancelotti warning Los Blancos to forget last month’s win at Anfield.
Benzema joined Vinicius Junior in scoring twice as Madrid thrashed Jurgen Klopp’s men 5-2 in February’s last-16 first leg, but the striker has seen his form dip since that rout.
The Madrid skipper has failed to find the net in three consecutive games across all competitions, while injuries have limited him to just 15 appearances in LaLiga this campaign.
Benzema sat out Saturday’s 3-1 win over Espanyol with an ankle problem, but Ancelotti says he is fit and raring to go ahead of Liverpool’s visit to the Santiago Bernabeu.
“Benzema is 100 per cent recovered. He has done good work in training sessions since Sunday,” Ancelotti said at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.
“He has great enthusiasm for this game. For me, for the players, for the club and for Karim, this is a massive competition.”
Asked about Benzema’s lack of form in recent weeks, Ancelotti said: “We’re not talking about criticism. We’re talking about his condition, how he’s doing… I see him looking good, motivated and excited for tomorrow’s game.”
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Madrid became the first visiting team to score five goals in a European fixture at Anfield last month, and they have progressed from 26 of their 27 European Cup/Champions League ties when winning on the road in the first leg.
However, with Liverpool one of just four sides to have overturned a first-leg deficit of three goals or more to win a Champions League tie, Ancelotti remains wary of their threat.
“We have to work on our defence and what we do in the final third. We’re not focused on that first leg,” he said.
“We’ve got our game plan, which we’re going to stick to. We’ll try to start off strongly, play with plenty of tempo and look to win the match.
“We’re going to approach this match like its just 90 minutes, we’re not going to get the calculator out and work out how many goals we need. We can’t focus purely on defending.”
Madrid were involved in several dramatic Champions League ties last term, including when they squandered a 3-1 first-leg lead over Chelsea before sealing a 5-4 aggregate win in the last eight in extra time in the home leg.
Ancelotti is determined to enjoy a smoother passage to the next stage on Wednesday, saying: “Maybe people don’t see me that stressed, but of course I suffer a lot and against Chelsea, I did!
“Everyone played their part on that day and it was a remarkable victory. We’ve got to make sure it’s a very different game this time.
“That’s why I said we’re not going to get our calculator out. We’re going to make sure we book our place in the next round.”