Karim Benzema’s lack of supply line is Real Madrid’s biggest problem

Just as Eden Hazard looked to be finding his feet as a Real Madrid player, injury struck. Again. Of course, the Belgian had to wait a number of weeks for his first appearance for his new club after suffering an injury right at the end of pre-season. Now, Hazard is on the sidelines with an ankle injury which is widely expected to rule him out of next week’s Clasico.

On his day, there aren’t many better than Hazard in the European game right now. He has the ability to win a match almost entirely on his own, but his biggest benefit to Real Madrid right now is in the supply line he offers Karim Benzema. The partnership between Benzema and Hazard has the potential to carry Real Madrid a long way.

There were signs of a growing understanding between the two players before Hazard’s injury. Now that the Belgian is ruled out for the time being, the lack of a supply line for Benzema has become Real Madrid’s biggest problem, the thing that could compromise their whole season.

The issue has been mitigated in recent weeks by the form of Rodrygo. The Brazilian teenager has exploded on to the scene this season, but he is still of a very tender age and can’t be expected to carry Real Madrid on a weekly basis. Then there’s Vinicius Junior, Real Madrid’s other teenage Brazilian.

After a shaky start to the season which had some questioning whether a loan away from the Santiago Bernabeu would be best for the youngster, Vinicius has rediscovered some of last season’s form. But he remains a volatile sort of player. A lack of final product has been Vinicius’ problem from the moment he broke through.

Gareth Bale has played well at times this season, but he too is sidelined through injury. What’s more, the Welshman is expected to finally leave the Spanish capital in the not so distant future. And Marco Asensio is predicted to miss all of the 2019/20 campaign after suffering an ACL injury in the summer.

Benzema is the face of Real Madrid in the post-Cristiano Ronaldo age. He is the player Zinedine Zidane has built around in an attempt to take the club back to the top of the Spanish and European game, but he might not have the building blocks to do that.

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Karim Benzema contract talk underlines his importance to Real Madrid

There was a time not so long ago when Karim Benzema’s time as a Real Madrid player looked as good as over. The Frenchman was given the now customary roasting by the Santiago Bernabeu crowd as they expressed their disgruntlement at the striker’s lack of edge in front of goal. It seemed likely Benzema would leave the Spanish capital sooner rather than later.

A lot has changed since then. In the post-Cristiano Ronaldo age, it has been Benzema who become the face of Real Madrid. The Frenchman hasn’t quite stepped into the void vacated by his former Portuguese teammate (because who could really do that?), but he has upped his own levels to mitigate the blow.

In fact, Benzema has actually scored more goals for Real Madrid over the past two seasons than Ronaldo has for Juventus over the same time frame. It’s therefore unsurprising that the Spanish capital club are now reportedly looking to extend Benzema’s contract until 2023. He has quite simply become the most important player at the club.

Real Madrid’s hopes and dreams for this season are resting on Benzema. That isn’t exactly the best position to be in when the Frenchman has suffered more than a few injury problems over the years, but it is the reality of the situation for a team still transitioning between the Ronaldo age and a new generation.

Zinedine Zidane might now have Eden Hazard and Rodrygo, the teenage Brazilian who has taken Real Madrid by storm this season, but both players still require Benzema to play off. Luka Jovic was signed for around £60 million from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, but the Serbian has so far failed to show anything that suggests he can effectively deputise for Benzema.

Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are also better players when Benzema is on the pitch. The Frenchman is the dynamo through which Real Madrid play through. The drop off when he is not involved is drastic and so it’s understandable that they wish to tie him down for the foreseeable future even as he enters the twilight years of his career.

For a long time it seemed that Benzema would one day play in the Premier League. A move to Arsenal was a staple of the gossip column for a number of years, but Real Madrid have gone from being unsure of his place at the club to being unable to let him leave.

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A preview of gameweek 5 in LaLiga

Football, football, football.

Here is our preview of all ten games in LaLiga this coming weekend.

Osasuna v Real Betis

Key men: Roberto Torres (Osasuna); Nabil Fekir (Real Betis)

Prediction: Osasuna 1 – 1 Real Betis Continue reading

A preview of this weekend’s LaLiga action

Another full list of LaLiga matches awaits all Spanish football fans this weekend. There are some very interesting matchups to look out for as well.

Here is our preview of all ten matches.

Sevilla v Celta Vigo

Key men: Jordan (Sevilla); Aspas (Celta Vigo)

Prediction: Sevilla 2 – 1 Celta Vigo

Sevilla are the early LaLiga leaders and I can’t see that changing after this game. They should overcome Celta Vigo on Friday night. Continue reading

Fantasy LaLiga picks for this weekend’s matches

How did your LaLiga fantasy team get on over the opening weekend?

I’m sure, like all of us, you’ll need to make some changes throughout the squad. Well, that’s what we’re here for.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend.

Goalkeeper – Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao) – 5.5 million

A good budget option, Unai Simon is only half the price of last week’s pick, Jan Oblak. Simon managed a clean sheet against Barcelona so another one is very possible away to Getafe. Continue reading

Preview of all this weekend’s LaLiga action

There were some shocks in the opening round of games of the LaLiga season.

Athletic Bilbao scored a late winner to take all three points from league champions Barcelona. A night Antoine Griezmann and co will look to forget as soon as they can.

Real Madrid looked solid in their 3-1 win at Celta Vigo, even without Eden Hazard. Karim Benzema certainly hit the ground running for Zinedine Zidane’s side.

Atletico Madrid and Sevilla both started with three points from their games while Villarreal and Granada played out an enthralling 4-4 draw at the Estadio de la Ceramica.

This weekend, LaLiga again has games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Continue reading

Pressure on Zinedine Zidane at its greatest to beat Barcelona

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Zinedine Zidane the magic man is back at Real Madrid and this coming season all of the pressure will be on the Frenchman to deliver the title and usurp Barcelona who have been completely dominant.

When Zidane came back to Real in March the club hardly exploded and indeed didn’t really improve under him but at the end of the day he was brought back earlier to just stabilise the ship. Zidane will know as will the fans that the real business with the club will commence when the league season kicks off in August. And you can forget about the Champions League. Whilst they will fight to be champions of Europe once again the priority will be about winning La Liga. Incredibly Madrid have only won 1 La Liga title in the past 7 years.

Madrid have spent big and the purchase of Eden Hazard from Chelsea is their star signing. He is the one that is supposed to bring the balance back to the team. But Hazard as great as he is, can go missing in games. It will be Zidane’s task to guide the Belgian through the season where consistency becomes key to success.

Paul Pogba has been hinted at but he will have to fall into place and one wonders if his signing will be good for such a sensitive player. Even Ronaldo got booed at the Bernabeu.

The truth is that Zidane is about to undergo the biggest challenge of his career. Not only does he have to perform well on his return, and remember they say never go back to your old clubs. But he has to stop Barcelona from winning the league which is easier said than done. And of course Barca will not be the only threat to Madrid this season with their city rivals Atletico Madrid making huge progress and buying Joao Felix who is supposed to be the next big player. They will be in with a shout for the league too.

Zidane will need to find a good balance with his team and they will have to attack and be much more aggressive this season with the ball. One finds that Madrid just aren’t quite there and need a striker that can get them 30 goals a season. Is it simple that the club still haven’t recovered from losing Ronaldo? Benzema is good but he isn’t Ronaldo.

Maybe just maybe Zidane will give another chance to Gareth Bale who in truth has done little wrong. Zidane simply has the greatest season challenge of his career to date.

 

 

Top La Liga Strikers in 2018/19: Karim Benzema

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Real Madrid had a season to forget after Zinedine Zidane parted ways with the club last summer, only to come back in March. And Cristiano Ronaldo finally waved goodbye and joined Juventus in Serie A. Madrid went on to win nothing this season but one bright spark was French forward Karim Benzema who at 31 scored 21 goals and assisted in 6 other goals. In short he was Madrid’s best player this season.

In the Fantasy football rankings for strikers in La Liga Benzema finished 2nd only to Lionel Messi although still finished a cool 75 points behind the Argentinian. He started 35 games for Madrid and his disciplinary record was superb receiving only 1 yellow card all season. Overall if we take into account all of the major leagues his striker rank would be 8th, and that isn’t bad for a player who would have cost you 10m to be in your team.

What was incredible about Benzema’s total score and finishing 2nd in the La Liga rankings was that he started the season very poorly where he earned just 17 points from his first 11 games. Indeed it seemed that the former Lyon player was overpriced, but it was at that point where his quality came through and his fortunes changed.

His two best games this past season were against Athletic Bilbao when he scored a hat-trick and earned 14 points and his outstanding display against Rayo Valladolid when he scored 2 goals and then assisted in another in Madrid’s 4-1 win. His last game ended in a 2-0 defeat against Real Betis thus earning no points.

But this season was a massive improvement from Benzema, who earned more points than he has in the last 2 seasons combined. In 2016/17 he got 54 points and last season just 40.

And of course Benzema broke a near 60 year record with Madrid this season. In April Benzema scored all of the last 8 goals that Madrid had netted in La Liga breaking a record set by the great Ferenc Puskas in the 1961/62 season when he netted the last 7.

Speculation is rife that Benzema has played his last season for the club after spending 10 years with Los Blancos. Despite his personal successful season Zidane may feel that after 10 years Benzema should call time on his Madrid career and play elsewhere and let’s face it Benzema could still command a big club if he was to leave Madrid. If this is to be his last season with the club he has scored 222 goals from 465 appearances and been incredibly consistent in a period for the club where he won 17 trophies including 4 Champions Leagues.

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Real Madrid must ease reliance on Karim Benzema next season

Almost from the moment Zinedine Zidane’s return to Real Madrid was confirmed, the Santiago Bernabeu outfit have embarked on the longest pre-season programme in football history. Indeed, with Real Madrid out of the Liga title race, out of the Copa del Rey and out of the Champions League, the final couple months of the season became about preparing for the next one.

This has seen Zidane experiment with a number of options in essentially dead rubber games. He has tried different options in goals – Thibaut Courtois, Keylor Navas and even his own son, Luca Zidane. He has alternated between Marcelo and Sergio Reguilon at left back. Alvaro Odriozola and Dani Carvajal have taken it game about at right back. Jesus Vallejo has earned the Frenchman’s trust while even the forgotten man Mariano Diaz has been given a chance up front.

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Of course, Mariano has only been given a run in the first team due to the injury suffered by Karim Benzema. Questions were asked of the Frenchman last season, to the extent where his exit from the Santiago Bernabeu looked probable. However, the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo last summer changed things and Benzema has delivered, crossing the 30-goal mark.

However, Real Madrid have become too dependent on the goals of Benzema. With Mariano’s goal in the win over Villarreal last weekend, he became the first player that isn’t Benzema to find the back of the net in 568 minutes. While they were once reliant on Ronaldo to provide a cutting edge in the final third, now it’s Benzema they lean on.

This is arguably the most pressing of all the concerns Zidane must have in his mind ahead of next season. Real Madrid will undergo a summer overhaul, with the squad almost certain to be replenished. It is in the final third where their efforts will be focused most acutely and they must find goals.

Quite simply, the likes of Marco Asensio, Gareth Bale, Isco and Lucas Vazquez haven’t contributed enough in front of goal this season. Even Vinicius Junior, the breakout star of the 2018/19 La Liga season, needs to sharpen up his finishing. The addition of players like Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic, both expected to join Real Madrid this summer, should held, but Zidane knows what he must find ahead of next season – goals.

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This weekend’s suggested fantasy La Liga picks

La Liga

There was a full schedule of LaLiga midweek games over the last couple of days but there will still be ten more games for your viewing pleasure this coming weekend in Spain’s top tier.

Starting with Athletic Bilbao and Alaves at midday on Saturday, the action continues right through until Real Betis play Espanyol on Monday night, with all 20 LaLiga clubs in action over the two days.

As always, we’ve taken a look at the fixtures from a LaLiga fantasy football viewpoint to help you with your picks for the weekend.

Have a read and see if any tips stick out which might suit your fantasy LaLiga team this weekend. Continue reading