Champions League: Zidane taking no chances with Benzema v Atalanta

Benzema, Real's top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions, was one of nine players injured for Saturday's La Liga match away to Real Valladolid.

Karim Benzema

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said he will not be taking any risks with striker Karim Benzema when his side plays away to Atalanta in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg.   -  AP

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has said he will not be taking any risks with striker Karim Benzema when his side plays away to Atalanta in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg, even with his side seriously short on striking options.

Benzema, Real's top scorer with 17 goals in all competitions, was one of nine players injured for Saturday's La Liga match away to Real Valladolid, where it scraped a 1-0 victory to move within three points of leader Real Madrid.

Mariano Diaz was the lone striker against Valladolid due to the absence of Benzema while wide forwards Eden Hazard and Rodrygo are also injured for the trip to Italy.

"We're not going to take any risks with Benzema because there's a long way to go in the season, and many games left to play," Zidane told reporters.

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"If he's ok he'll travel with us, if he isn't, he will not. We never take risks. Maybe we would if it was the Champions League final or the last game of the league season with the title on the line, but there's a long way to go.

"He has another scan tomorrow, and we'll see how he is then."

Spanish newspaper Marca said on Saturday that Real has suffered a total of 41 injuries this season, in addition to five players missing games after testing positive for COVID-19.

Twenty players have had spells on the sidelines, meanwhile, missing a combined 146 games.

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Real was left with only 12 first-team players to face Valladolid and had to call upon reserve team players to fill its bench, including youngsters Hugo Duro and Sergio Arribas who came on as substitutes.

Zidane did not hide his frustration over the injury crisis but praised his side for recording a fourth straight league win despite its stretched resources.

"We aren't happy with the situation at all, we've talked about it a lot, but there's not much we can do about it," he said.

"We have a lot of injuries, but the players we do have available are very committed, and we have to keep going. I'm delighted with everyone who played today, we worked hard all week, and this is our reward."