Benzema ruled out of ‘clásico’ with leg injury

In this Oct.3, 2021 file photo, Real Madrid's Karim Benzema reacts during a Spanish La Liga soccer match between RCD Espanyol and Real Madrid at the Cornella-El Prat stadium in Barcelona, Spain. The Real Madrid and France forward Karim Benzema will stand trial from Wednesday Oct.20, 2021 in Versailles, accused of involvement in an alleged blackmail case. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, File)
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MADRID (AP) — Karim Benzema will miss Real Madrid’s match against fierce rival Barcelona because of a leg injury, coach Carlo Ancelotti said Saturday.

Madrid hosts Barcelona on Sunday with an already commanding lead of the Spanish league.

Benzema has not yet recovered since hurting his left leg in Monday’s 3-0 win at Mallorca.

“He can’t play tomorrow (Sunday) because he has not trained yet and still feels some pain,” Ancelotti said. “It is a small injury but it keeps him from training and, obviously, from playing.”

Benzema is having a superb season. He leads the Spanish league with 22 goals. Last week he scored a memorable second-half hat trick to rally Madrid to a 3-2 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Madrid can still count on winger Vinícius Júnior, who has scored 14 times in the league this campaign. Ancelotti could start Marco Asensio in Benzema’s place as a “false nine.”

Madrid enters the round with a 10-point lead over Sevilla. Barcelona is 15 points behind.

Xavi Hernández said that he would not be changing his game plan against Madrid.

“If (Benzema) is not the best, he is among the best strikers in the world,” the Barcelona coach said. “He has been among the best for the past three years. It won’t change our approach to the game. It will impact them more because it is a big loss.”