Ben­zema fit to play for Real in Madrid derby

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Real Madrid will be able to count on Karim Ben­zema for the Madrid derby at Atletico tour­day.

Coach Zine­dine Zi­dane picked the France striker for the Span­ish league match at Vi­cente Calderon Sta­dium, but he didn't re­veal if he will start Ben­zema or place him in the re­serves.

"He is bet­ter, and if he is on the squad then he can play," Zi­dane said yes­ter­day.

Ben­zema was in doubt be­cause of a lin­ger­ing hip prob­lem. He has five goals in 13 ap­pear­ances this sea­son.

While for­wards Cris­tiano Ron­aldo and Gareth Bale are also ready to play, Zi­dane will be with­out his other pure striker Al­varo Mo­rata, who in­jured a ham­string while play­ing for Spain over the in­ter­na­tional break.

Atletico, mean­while, is hop­ing star for­ward An­toine Griez­mann will be fit af­ter hurt­ing his left foot while play­ing for France.

"He trained nor­mally yes­ter­day," Atletico man­ager Diego Sime­one said about Griez­mann.

"He is try­ing very hard to be ready for the match. I hope he trains well in the last prac­tice ses­sion and can make our squad."

Griez­mann has scored eight goals for Atletico this sea­son and, if fit, should join Yan­nick Car­rasco and Kevin Gameiro in at­tack.

Once the cap­i­tal's dom­i­nant team, Madrid hasn't beaten Atletico in six con­sec­u­tive league der­bies, although it has topped its cross-town ri­val in two Cham­pi­ons League fi­nals dur­ing that stretch.

Zi­dane gave credit to Sime­one for re­vamp­ing Atletico since his ar­rival mid­way through the 2011-12 sea­son.

"Atletico gets bet­ter year af­ter year," Zi­dane said.

"It has a coach that has changed so many things. He is do­ing a phe­nom­e­nal job. Ev­ery­body al­ways says Atletico de­fends well, but it is so much more than that." Madrid is also in fine form. Madrid's de­feat to Atletico last Fe­bru­ary marked the start of a re­mark­able run for Zi­dane's side, which hasn't lost in the league since — a run of 23 matches.

Be­sides Ben­zema, Madrid will also have back Ser­gio Ramos and Luca Mo­dric af­ter both re­cov­ered from knee prob­lems, although Mo­dric will be with­out fel­low mid­field­ers Toni Kroos and Casemiro due to in­juries.

Atletico has most of its mid­field­ers, led by play­maker Jorge "Koke" Res­ur­rec­cion, to choose from.

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