Ancelotti: Real Madrid depend on Benzema, and he is the best player

Carlo Ancelotti has admitted that Real Madrid are very dependent on star striker Karim Benzema, who has netted two hat-tricks in their last two Champions League games.

The Italian coach believes that depending on a player of Benzema’s calibre is a blessing for Los Blancos, who are huge favourites to make it through to the Champions League semi-finals after beating Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie.

“We are dependent on Benzema,” Ancelotti said during Monday’s pre-match press conference ahead of Tuesday’s clash with Chelsea.

“That’s how it is, we are not going to deny it. And I’m very happy that we are dependent on Karim. It’s a reality, and it’s a good thing.

“Karim is a modern forward and [does] what is required of strikers. Everything, including defensive work. He is the perfect representation of what a centre forward should be in today’s football.”

Ancelotti stressed that he wouldn’t leave Everton for just any other team last summer, but he eventually decided to part ways with the Toffees after Real Madrid came knocking on his door.

“[Real Madrid] were the only team I couldn’t say no to,” added Ancelotti.

“If anyone else had come, I would have stayed at Everton. I was very good there. If Madrid are happy at the end of the season, I think I will continue to be happy, as I am now.”

The Real Madrid boss was asked whether he would like to coach the Italian national team and he revealed that he could have taken charge of the side back in 2018.

“I have sometimes thought about going to a national team, but I like the day-to-day [life at a club],” Ancelotti noted.

“I was able to go to Italy in 2018. Until I change that mindset, I’m not going to go to a national team.

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Karim Benzema is probably still haunting the dreams of Chelsea supporters and players alike, but things could have been very different in West London last week if the player hadn’t been allowed into the ground. It sounds preposterous, but the French striker was stopped outside as he wasn’t carrying the proper accreditation when he stepped down from the team bus ahead of the Champions League quarter-final first leg.

Los Blancos took a commanding lead in the quarter-final tie with a 3-1 victory in which Benzema scored a hat-trick, his second in consecutive Champions League games, and it’s fair to say the Spanish side aren’t the same without their talisman. It was just as well for Carlo Ancelotti’s team that, after some frantic searching, he was able to find his pass and enter Stamford Bridge.

Benzema has since shared a video of the incident on his Instagram account and his coach even spoke about it.

“Before the game, Benzema was not able to find his pass to enter into the stadium, so I told him ‘be fast or you can’t play!’ and then, luckily, Karim found the pass,” Ancelotti told Amazon Prime.

“Karim Benzema is getting better every day; just like a fine wine. He’s more of a leader every day, he feels more and more important in this team and this squad. And I think that’s what makes the difference.

“He has so much more personality, he knows he’s a very important player for us and he’s an example for everyone.”

Real Madrid are fully behind the campaign for Karim Benzema to win the Ballon d’Or for 2021, and the player himself has admitted that when he watched his former teammate Cristiano Ronaldo consistently pick up the award, he thought that he could win it too.

Benzema has played some of the finest football of his career in 2021, carrying Los Merengues at times, and he is well within range of Robert Lewandowski, who many are tipping as favourite for the award.

“It has always been a goal, I have always had it in my mind, when Cristiano Ronaldo won it, I thought I could win it too,” Benzema explained to ESPN.

“I can say that I have never been so close to winning it thanks to my performances, because of what I’ve done here in the last three or four years.

“I’m not that far away.”

The upcoming Clasico will be the first since Lionel Messi departed Barcelona, bringing to an end the Messi/Ronaldo era of meetings between the two bitter rivals, yet Benzema feels the glamour of the match remains the same.

“For me, everything remains the same, this is still the best match that exists in football,” he added.

“The players who are here, who left or who will join in the future, it doesn’t matter.

“Before Cristiano and Messi there was [Zinedine] Zidane and Ronaldinho. Players change but Real Madrid vs Barcelona will always be Real Madrid vs Barcelona, no matter who participates.”

Benzema has been credited with hitting his peak much later than a lot of his contemporaries, and he puts this down to being fit.

“Physically, I feel good, the more time passes then the better I feel,” he continued.

“I don’t like working three times a year. If I get bored of that day-to-day desire, I’ll stop. Of course it was a great experience to be part of the [coaching] staff at the 1994 World Cup, but I like the work at club level.”

Ancelotti also stressed that Real Madrid should be prepared in the event Chelsea decide to change their style of play after their defeat at Stamford Bridge.

“Everyone knows it’s going to be difficult, beyond the 3-1 [win],” Ancelotti declared.

“We will have to suffer and fight, for sure. We’re expecting an opponent who will do their best to get through the tie.

“We’ll see about the line-up. We would like [to play] the same game as there. We have to be prepared for anything, for a change in Chelsea’s way of playing, because what they did in London didn’t work out well for them.”

Less than a week after grabbing a huge 3-1 victory away at Stamford Bridge, Real Madrid are hosting Chelsea at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Eder Militao is suspended after receiving a yellow card in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, while Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic are both out injured.

Ferland Mendy and Isco didn’t feature against Getafe, but they are both expected to be back in contention, with the former being highly likely to start at left-back.

As for Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel’s side bounced back with a 6-0 win away at Southampton on Saturday. Timo Werner netted twice and could start again upfront, but Romelu Lukaku will miss out through injury.

Cesar Azpilicueta will travel with the team, as he has recovered from Covid-19, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is still out injured, Ross Barkley will miss out due to illness and Ben Chilwell is sidelined through a long-term injury.

Real Madrid vs Chelsea predicted line-ups

Real Madrid’s predicted line-up (4-3-3): Thibaut Courtois; Dani Carvajal, Nacho Fernandez, David Alaba, Ferland Mendy; Toni Kroos, Casemiro, Luka Modric; Fede Valverde, Karim Benzema, Vinicius Junior.

Chelsea’s predicted line-up (3-4-3): Edouard Mendy; Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva, Antonio Rudiger; Reece James, Jorginho, Mateo Kovacic, Marcos Alonso; Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Mason Mount.

When does Real Madrid vs Chelsea start?

Less than a week after grabbing a huge 3-1 victory away at Stamford Bridge, Real Madrid are hosting Chelsea at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday in the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final.

Eder Militao is suspended after receiving a yellow card in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-finals, while Eden Hazard and Luka Jovic are both out injured.

Ferland Mendy and Isco didn’t feature against Getafe, but they are both expected to be back in contention, with the former being highly likely to start at left-back.

As for Chelsea, Thomas Tuchel’s side bounced back with a 6-0 win away at Southampton on Saturday. Timo Werner netted twice and could start again upfront, but Romelu Lukaku will miss out through injury.

Cesar Azpilicueta will travel with the team, as he has recovered from Covid-19, while Callum Hudson-Odoi is still out injured, Ross Barkley will miss out due to illness and Ben Chilwell is sidelined through a long-term injury.

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