Carlo Ancelotti attended his pre-match press conference on Saturday well-aware that there would be one talking point taking precedence over all others.
That being the absence of star striker Karim Benzema, who missed training on Saturday morning. He had been struggling with a muscle problem all week after being substituted against Real Mallorca.
Ancelotti was understandably coy on how that would affect his plans ahead of the match, as reported by Mundo Deportivo.
“I have made a decision on who is going to replace Benzema but I’m not going to tell you who it is.
“Bale is an alternative to Benzema, as is Mariano, Jovic, Isco and Rodrygo. There are a lot of options but I will choose the one I think is best for this match.”
Despite the absence of Benzema, Ancelotti showed an outwardly confident outlook on his team’s chances.
“We can beat Barcelona without Benzema. He is very important part [of the team], a great finisher. We have to look for different solutions in attack without Benzema.”
With Kylian Mbappe reportedly set to join Real Madrid this summer, the Madrid frontline will be reinforced. Some have also speculated about the arrival of Erling Braut Haaland this summer, which would likely signal less minutes for either Benzema or Vinicius Junior.
Benzema’s age might help make the decision for Florentino Perez however. Ancelotti acknowledged that injuries were a part and parcel of relying on players at an advanced age.
“Benzema is 34 and sometimes these things happen. He had some small issues and he will be back to make the difference. It doesn’t worry me that he won’t play tomorrow. He will be fine for the end of the season to make that difference.”
Doubtless he will be a big miss for tomorrow’s match, but a longer absence could damage Real Madrid’s hopes of making it to the Champions League semi-finals, with a tie against Chelsea to consider.