MADRID (AP) — Carlo Ancelotti defended Karim Benzema from accusations he is not playing with Real Madrid to be ready for the World Cup, saying Wednesday the France striker himself is upset about his lack of minutes going into Qatar.
The 34-year-old Benzema, who has been dealing with muscle fatigue, will miss his sixth straight start when Madrid hosts Cádiz in the Spanish league on Thursday. It will be the club's last match before the World Cup break.
Ancelotti said it was “silly” for people to say Benzema was trying to preserve himself for the France national team.
“It’s a small ailment, and Karim has tried to recover from it,” the Madrid coach said. “He is the first one who is frustrated with the situation, as he is entering the World Cup without the minutes he would have needed to be in better condition.”
Since winning the Ballon d’Or for best player of the year three weeks ago, Benzema missed matches against Sevilla, Leipzig, Girona and Rayo Vallecano. He played less than 30 minutes after coming off the bench in a 5-1 rout of Celtic in the group stage of the Champions League this month. His most recent start was in a 3-0 win at Elche in the Spanish league on Oct. 19, when he scored his last goal.
“The only thing that bothers me is that Karim has not been able to help the team with his quality,” Ancelotti said.
Benzema is set to be back at the World Cup after missing out on the 2018 tournament in Russia. France coach Didier Deschamps will announce the squad that will try to the defend the World Cup title in Qatar on Wednesday.
Ancelotti also defended Vinícius Júnior from accusations he was provoking other players too much in recent matches.
“Vini is the player who receives the most fouls, the most hits, the most shoves,” Ancelotti said about the forward that will be with Brazil at the World Cup.
Madrid needs to beat relegation-threatened Cádiz to enter the World Cup break within three points of Spanish league leader Barcelona, which came from behind to win 2-1 at Osasuna on Tuesday.
Madrid is the defending champion both in the Spanish league and the Champions League.
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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press