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Thursday 3. February 2022 - 13:09

Real Madrid lineup against Athletic Bilbao: Benzema ruled out; Asensio, Vinicius start

Karim Benzema has been ruled out while Marco Asensio and Vinicius Junior are in line to start when Real Madrid face Athletic Bilbao in Copa del Rey.

Real Madrid will be aiming to progress to the semi-finals of the 2021/22 Copa del Rey when they lock horns with Athletic Bilbao at San Mames on Thursday night.

Heading into the game, Los Blancos have been dealt with a major injury blow as star striker Karim Benzema has been ruled out. “We don’t want to take any risks, if he is cleared by the doctors he will play, if not, someone else will. If he feels okay, he’ll play. If he doesn’t, I’ll leave him at home because it’s going to be a hugely demanding game and it doesn’t make sense,” manager Carlo Ancelotti said in his presser.

The Frenchman has been left out of the squad named by the Italian tactician. At the same time, left-back duo Ferland Mendy and Marcelo also miss out due to injury and suspension, respectively. The good news is that the South American quartet of Casemiro, Rodrygo Goes, Vinicius Junior and Federico Valverde are available after returning from international duty in time for the game.

While Ancelotti tried to create some cloud of uncertainty about which goaleeper could play during his press conference, Thibaut Courtois is expected to get the nod over the designated cup shot-stopper Andriy Lunin for this high-profile encounter. Eder Militao and David Alaba are certainties to feature in the centre-back roles, while Dani Carvajal and Nacho take up the full-back slots.

Moving into midfield, Casemiro should start from the kickoff, considering that he did not play a lot while away on international duty with Br azil. He will have his usual partners, Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, as partners in the centre of the park, with Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga being options from the bench.

The attack is where Ancelotti will have some key decisions to make as Benzema is ruled out while Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale have not been in the best form, whereas Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo will be fatigued after their international duty.

The Italian tactician spoke about his attacking options in his presser, saying: “Yes, it’s possible, because they are feeling fine, as is Asensio, who has made a full recovery. Sure, Vini Jr., and Rodrygo have just got back but they’re 20 years old, not 60, like me. They can recover in time. But Hazard and Bale are ready to play.”

It is likely that Ancelotti goes in with Asensio, who has scored a goal in Copa del Rey this term, and Vinicius on either flank against Athletic Bilbao, with Luka Jovic set to lead the line in the absence of Benzema.

Real Madrid Predicted XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Militao, Alaba, Nacho, Modric, Casemiro, Kroos, Asensio, Jovic, Vinicius.

Provided by: Frank Henriksen
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