Ronaldo fit for Champs League; Benzema, Pepe doubt
LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo seems certain to be fit to lead Real Madrid’s attack against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final on Saturday.
However, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti has lingering fitness doubts about Ronaldo’s strike partner Karim Benzema and defender Pepe.
“Cristiano doesn’t have any problems, he has trained well,” Ancelotti said Friday about the competition’s 16-goal record scorer, who missed Madrid’s final league match last weekend to rest a leg muscle injury.
Benzema and Pepe have not trained this week due to hamstring and calf injuries, respectively.
Ancelotti said the team’s practice session Friday evening on the Stadium of Light pitch “will be crucial to decide” if they can start.
Madrid’s vaunted forward line — the so-called BBC of Gareth Bale, Benzema and Cristiano — have combined to score 26 goals in this Champions League season, plus 63 in La Liga.
Benzema has thrived playing between the two speedy wingers, though Ancelotti played down the significance of the France forward, or any one player in a city derby between teams which have met four times already this season.
“Benzema has had a great season and I don’t know that we are losing him,” the coach said, adding “we will use another player who has similar characteristics.”
“This is not going to be a match where individuals count so much as the two teams,” Ancelotti said.
Atletico has injury concerns about its own star forward, Brazilian-born Spain international Diego Costa, who had a horse placenta treatment on his right thigh this week.
Real defender Sergio Ramos said he hoped all the best players lined up Saturday.
“If Diego Costa is there or (Arda) Turan or any other, well, that’s no problem as far as I am concerned,” the Spain defender said. “What concerns me is Karim, Pepe, Cris who have been injured in these past few days.”
For Real, attacking midfielder Isco could be asked to replace Benzema, whose France teammate Raphael Varane is a likely deputy for Pepe.
Ancelotti is deprived of holding midfielder Xabi Alonso who is suspended, and Germany’s Sami Khedira could start just two weeks after returning from a six-month absence due to a knee injury.