MADRID, Nov 20 — Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez has welcomed having his full squad available for just the second time this season for tomorrow’s huge game against Barcelona.
Benitez confirmed all of Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Keylor Navas have recovered from injuries with all three likely to start.
Benzema hasn’t played for six weeks due to a hamstring injury, but has also subsequently been plagued by off-field issues.
The striker was charged with complicity to blackmail and conspiring to commit a criminal act in his native France in a case involving a sex tape featuring international teammate Mathieu Valbuena.
“If Benzema is in the squad is it for a reason. Tomorrow we will evaluate how he is and decide what is best for him and the team,” said Benitez.
“It is the second time we have had everyone available. I have a winning team that has the capacity to still get better.
“That everyone is fit gives us greater competition. It is important everyone is in the squad and available to play.”
Barca come into the game with a three-point lead at the top of the table thanks to Madrid’s first defeat of the season at Sevilla last time out.
However, despite Barca also welcoming back four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi from a two-month injury layoff, Benitez insisted home advantage makes Madrid favourites.
“We are playing in our stadium with our fans, so I think Madrid are the favourites.
“We are confident from what we have seen in training. It will be a difficult game, but a great one for the fans.”
The match will be played under unprecedented security measures after a string of deadly attacks in Paris a week ago that killed 129 people.
A total of 1,200 police officers will be deployed around the stadium, six times the usual number for a game classified as presenting a high security risk.
However, Benitez said it was more important to show solidarity with the French people than be worried about security for Saturday’s game.
“What most worries me is what is happening at a worldwide level. We need to show solidarity with those affected,” Benitez added.
“We trust in the people in charge, I am quite confident everything will be ok and we can enjoy the match.” — AFP