Benzema to miss Espanyol game, expected back for Liverpool

MADRID (AP): Karim Benzema will miss Saturday’s Spanish league match against Espanyol because of an ankle injury, Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said Friday, adding that the French striker should be ready to play upcoming games against Liverpool and Barcelona.

“(Benzema) has a knock on his ankle and it has swollen,” Ancelotti said. “He has trained individually today and he will be ready for the game against Liverpool.”

Madrid hosts Liverpool in the Champions League on Wednesday with a 5-2 advantage from the first leg of the round of 16. The team will then visit Barcelona on March 19 in a “clásico” that will have an impact on the Spanish title chase.

Benzema has been plagued by minor injuries this season, which comes after a stellar 2021-22 campaign when he led Madrid to the European Cup and Spanish league title after scoring 44 goals. That earned him the Ballon d’Or award for best player.

The 35-year-old Benzema has missed 12 games so far for Madrid, as well as the World Cup for France, because of injuries this season. He played the full 90 minutes against Real Betis in a 0-0 draw on Sunday.

Ancelotti said his team has missed having its best player available for more games.

“I believe it is inevitable that this hurts us because Karim is so important for us, especially after his performances last season,” Ancelotti said. “But we have yet to reach the important part of the season. We are confident he will be there to help us.”

Madrid trails Barcelona by nine points in the Spanish league. Barcelona visits Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Ancelotti also said he expected injured defender Ferland Mendy to be ready in time for the game against Liverpool.