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Real look to Benzema to revive their ailing form


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid can hope to overcome the one goal deficit in their Champions League last 16 clash with Paris Saint Germain but the La Liga leaders need their strikers to rediscover their form beginning at home to struggling Alaves on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side have been far from clinical in front of goal recently — their blank in the 1-0 defeat by PSG on Tuesday the third time in four matches they have failed to score.

This goal drought has also contributed to the poor run of form with just one win in their last five matches in all competitions.  

Whilst talismanic striker Karim Benzema returned to the starting line-up against PSG he looked understandably rusty after being out injured since January 23.

In the absence of the French international — who tops the club scoring list with 24 in all competitions this term — his Brazilian strike partner Vinicius Junior has looked a bit lost.

Although they hold a four point lead over Sevilla — who are away at Espanyol on Sunday — goals and the points to boot would be most welcome for Ancelotti and his side on Saturday.

The drying up of goals and their form could also be partly to do with a problem that the Italian coach saw against PSG — a lack of service from midfield.

However, even the normally unflappable Ancelotti was taken aback by the failure of his midfield to provide anything for Benzema and Vinicius Jr and said he wanted to see a more effective performance on Saturday.

“Normally we do not have as many problems as that in providing the service when we press hard, but there (in Paris) we failed,” he said.

Real’s woes are relative to that of city rivals and defending champions Atletico Madrid, whose decade long love affair with coach Diego Simeone is showing signs of fraying at the edges.

The latest alarm bell rang on Wednesday as they became only the second side to lose to bottom club Levante this term — their seventh defeat of the campaign — and missed a golden opportunity to move back above Barcelona into the Champions League places in fourth spot.

Simeone’s side travel to mid-table Osasuna on Saturday whilst Barcelona — who are on 39 points like Atletico but ahead of them on goal difference — are away at Valencia on Sunday.

Barca go into the game on the back of a 1-1 draw at home to Napoli in the Europa League on Thursday but with veteran defender Gerard Pique encouraged by the performance and what it bodes for the future.

However, the 35-year-old concedes that like their bitter rivals Real Madrid the goals need to flow too if they are to achieve something this season.

“The feelings are good from that performance,” said Pique.

“When the goals begin to roll in, everything will come together for us.”

      

Fixtures (kick-off times GMT):

Saturday

Granada v Villarreal (1300), Osasuna v Atletico Madrid (1515), Cadiz v Getafe (1730), Real Madrid v Alaves (2000)

Sunday

Espanyol v Sevilla (1300), Valencia v Barcelona (1515), Real Betis v Mallorca (1730), Athletic Bilbao v Real Sociedad (2000)

Monday

Celta Vigo v Levante (2000)

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