The return of Karim Benzema motivates Real Madrid before facing Barcelona

Carlo Ancelotti said Karim Benzema He’s “back” and ready to introduce a still-hungry Real Madrid team ahead of the Spanish Super Cup Classico The final with Barcelona is on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET (Live broadcast on ESPN+ in the US)

Benzema has struggled with persistent hamstring problems in an injury-plagued season so far – he was sent home from France’s World Cup squad before the tournament began – but has scored four goals in his last three matches, including a penalty. Wednesday’s win in the semi-finals Over Valencia in Saudi Arabia.

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The Super Cup is the second of six possible titles that Real Madrid will chase this season after they won the European Super Cup in August, along with the Club World Cup, the King’s Cup, the League and the Champions League.

“Benzema is back,” Benzema coach Ancelotti told a news conference on Saturday. “It gives us a lot of confidence, for the next few games and in the second half of the season. He looks motivated and is training well.

“He’s a very important player for us. I think the team dealt well with his absence in the first half [of the season] And he will help us in that second half.”

The 2021-22 season saw Benzema – with his 27 goals in LaLiga and 15 in the Champions League to lead Real Madrid to the double – win the Ballon d’Or in October. Ancelotti denied that the successes of last season left the team lacking in the desire for more trophies.

He said, “This is not true.” “We’re talking about players who didn’t win just last year. They’re players who have won since 2013 and they’re still winning. Their bellies have never been full and they never will… We’re in a very demanding club. You’re not allowed to think your stomach is full.”

Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez agreed that Real Madrid’s recent experience in the finals gives them the advantage, but called on his team to rely on the desire to end a 21-month wait for titles to help them win their first title since he replaced Ronald Koeman in 2021.

“Real Madrid is very strong and psychologically they have a slight advantage because they have played more finals in recent years and they have more experience,” said Xavi.

“We have a lot of young players who haven’t won trophies with Barcelona, ​​so we have to look at this as a huge opportunity and use it as an advantage. We have to show our hunger to win trophies because it’s been a long time now.”

“At Barcelona, ​​winning is non-negotiable. We are here to win titles, that is the goal. We are 90 or 120 minutes away from winning the title and we will do our best to do it.”

Barcelona lead Real Madrid by three points at the top of La Liga after 16 games, but they lost 3-1 when the two teams met at the Santiago Bernabeu in October, their only defeat in the league this season.

Xavi – from Barcelona necessary penalties To beat Real Betis in the semi-finals on Thursday – he says so Classico It will not set a precedent for entering the final because this time his team will be at full strength.

“The big difference is that everyone is available,” he added. “We’ll try to show what we’re up to, control their transitions and disarm them in the back, where they’re very strong.

“The first goal was to reach the final and it wasn’t easy. The goal now is to bring the trophy back to Barcelona. The pressure comes with being at a big club, but the pressure is welcome.”

Barcelona coach also stressed Memphis Depay He will only be allowed to leave this month if a replacement is found. ESPN reported Atletico Madrid’s interest in the striker.

“I don’t want anyone to leave, but if someone asks for it, we will have to replace him first,” said Xavi.

Meanwhile, before Sunday’s game, Cristiano Ronaldo He visited his former colleagues in Madrid During their training sessions at Al-Nasr training ground on Friday after his high-profile move to the Saudi club last month.

“I saw Ronaldo yesterday,” added Ancelotti. “He is really happy and motivated. He loves the place and the country [Saudi Arabia]. I think he made the right decision.”

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