Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema will miss Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final against Athletic Bilbao as he is still recovering from a leg muscle injury, the club announced on Wednesday.
Benzema’s participation was in doubt after manager Carlo Ancelotti said earlier on Wednesday that he was still undecided about the France striker’s readiness to return after he was forced off early in the second half of a LaLiga match against Elche in January.
“We won’t take any risks. He was training separately from the group, we are feeling good about it and he will join his team mates today, so we will see,” Ancelotti told a news conference, hours before announcing that Benzema would be left out of the squad that will make the trip to Bilbao.
With the first leg of the Champions League last-16 clash against Paris St Germain only two weeks away, Ancelotti added: “We are not going to put him at risk of (suffering a) relapse. He knows it. If he doesn’t play it’s because we want him to recover. If he is well, he will travel, if not, he stays at home.”
Ancelotti, will, however, be able to count on Casemiro, Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde, the team’s South American players, for the cup tie after they returned from international duty.
“Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo … will be fine… as they are 21 and not 60 like me,” Ancelotti said with a laugh.
“We will evaluate if we will use them from the start but if they are just tired, they will play.”
With Thursday’s showdown being the fourth meeting in two months between the clubs in all competitions, Real will be eager to keep up their winning run having won all three previous encounters.
“Nothing changes. It is a very important game for us in a competition that we value a lot and the environment in Bilbao will be extraordinary. We will have to be in our best form,” added Ancelotti.