Real Madrid ramped up reparations for the resumption of La Liga after the World Cup break and one player who can't wait for the action to begin is Karim Benzema.
The France forward announced his retirement from international football after missing out on the finals in Qatar due to injury.
Benzema scored 37 goals in 97 games for France and made the decision to quit the national team just 24 hours after Les Bleus lost the World Cup final to Argentina after a penalty shoot out.
His hopes of adding a world title to his Ballon d’Or award were ruined by a left thigh injury while training with France. However, reports have emerged that Benzema could have recovered in time for the knockout stage and that the relations between Benzema and France manager Didier Deschamps had broken down.
It is in the backdrop that Barcelona and Real Madrid resume their fight for the Spanish title.
When club play stopped in early November, Barcelona and Madrid were already threatening to make it a two-team race with nine points separating second-place Madrid from Real Sociedad in third.
Barcelona enjoy a two-point lead and host rivals Espanyol at Camp Nou on Saturday, a day before defending champions Madrid visit Valladolid.
“We have Benzema back, which is very important,” manager Carlo Ancelotti said on Thursday. “A very motivated player has returned and we are convinced that he is going to give us a lot.”