Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema will miss Sunday's Clasico against Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu after suffering a calf injury, coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed.
Benzema, LaLiga's top scorer, was absent from Real's Saturday training session in Madrid and will concentrate over the next two weeks on getting fit for next month's Champions League quarter-final matches against Chelsea.
"Benzema is still hurting and can't play on Sunday. He won't travel with France next week and will stay in Madrid to recover," Ancelotti told a news conference on Saturday, referring to the international break when Benzema had been scheduled to join the France squad for friendlies against Ivory Cost and South Africa.
"Benzema is a very important part of our team because he is the final link up front, finishing the entire team's effort very well. I'm not worried because we have two weeks to work on him getting fit. We have time to prepare him for the end of the season."
The striker was injured after grabbing an assist and two late goals as LaLiga leaders Real defeated Mallorca 3-0 on Monday. He scored a hat-trick in their 3-1, come-from-behind, last-16 Champions League win over Paris St Germain last week.
"I believe Benzema's injury happened at the right time," Ancelotti said.
"He is 34 years old and those type of problems can happen. If he was fit he would have to travel with his national team, come back tired. Now he will stay here with us and get ready the proper way. Every time he came back from an injury he came back stronger. I'm counting on him to make the difference."
Real will host bitter rivals Barca on Sunday with the opportunity to strengthen its hold on the title race.
With 66 points from 28 games, Carlo Ancelotti's side has a 10-point advantage over second-placed Sevilla and is 15 ahead of Barca in third.
With 11 matches to play, it is on a high and has a LaLiga-European Cup double in its sights.
But Ancelotti said he was wary of Barca's current form, on a four-game winning streak and playing with a lot of confidence.
"I believe coach Xavi Hernandez is doing a great job," Ancelotti said.
"You can see that Barca's identity is there and didn't change. It is a team with a very clear style and Xavi embodies it perfectly. Barcelona have improved a lot, they are in a good dynamic."
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