La Liga: Benzema scandal rocks Real preparations

Real Madrid are expected to be without striker Karim Benzema for their tricky trip to Sevilla on Sunday after he was charged in an extortion case in his homeland involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.

Karim Benzema has not played for Real Madrid after picking up a hamstring injury on international duty last month.   -  AP

Real Madrid are expected to be without striker Karim Benzema for their tricky trip to Sevilla on Sunday after he was charged in an extortion case in his homeland involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.

Benzema returned to Madrid on Thursday after spending Wednesday night in custody in Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris.

The 27-year-old hasn't featured for Madrid since injuring his hamstring on international duty a month ago and is unlikely to be rushed back into action after a momentous week off the field.

In brighter news for Madrid boss Rafael Benitez, Gareth Bale could make his return after a three-week layoff with a calf problem as he trained along with the rest of the squad on Thursday.

James Rodriguez is also expected to make his first appearance in two months after he returned to the squad but was an unused substitute in Tuesday's 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain.

Kiko Casilla is also expected to deputise for Keylor Navas in goal after the Costa Rica international aggravated an adductor muscle injury in midweek.

Madrid will be particularly keen to rack up a fourth consecutive league win with Barcelona to come in their next outing after the international break.

The two giants of Spanish football are tied on 24 points at the top of the table.

Messi nearing return as Villareal visit

Barcelona can edge ahead of Madrid for a few hours at least when they host fifth-placed Villarreal at the Camp Nou earlier on Sunday.

The Catalans remain hopeful the Yellow Submarine's visit will be the last time they will be without Lionel Messi before he returns from knee ligament damage.

However, the European champions have only dropped three points in his absence thanks to the superb form of Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have now scored 18 of Barca's last 21 goals after combining for all three in Wednesday's 3-0 cruise over Bate Borisov.

Celta Vigo can make it a three-way tie at the top should they inflict more pain on Valencia on Saturday.

Los Che were beaten 1-0 by Gent in the Champions League in midweek and boss Nuno Espirito Santo's job may be on the line with another defeat in Galicia.

Former Manchester United manager David Moyes could be another coach for the chop if his Real Sociedad suffer a sixth defeat of the season at Las Palmas on Friday.

Meanwhile, fourth-placed Atletico Madrid will be looking to bounce back from disappointing draws away to Deportivo La Coruna and Kazakh champions Astana in the past week when they host Sporting Gijon on Sunday.

Fixtures

Las Palmas v Real Sociedad, Celta Vigo v Valencia, Levante v Deportivo la Coruna, Eibar v Getafe, Rayo Vallecano v Granada, Malaga v Real Betis, Athletic Bilbao v Espanyol, Barcelona v Villarreal, Atletico Madrid v Sporting Gijon, Sevilla v Real Madrid.

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