Real Madrid 'not going to take any risks' with Karim Benzema ahead of Atalanta

Real's top scorer one of 12 players who missed win over Valladolid through injury

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Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has said he will not take any risks with top scorer Karim Benzema in Wednesday's Champions League last-16 first leg tie against Atalanta, even with his side seriously short on striking options.

Benzema has scored 17 goals for Real this term but was one of nine enforced absences from Saturday's 1-0 win away to Real Valladolid in La Liga, a victory that moved them to within three points of leaders Atletico Madrid, who suffered a shock home defeat to Levante.

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 said.

"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 [Sunday] and we'll see how he is then."

The Spanish champions' injury crisis was highlighted by a study conducted by newspaper Marca. According to the Spanish daily, Real have suffered 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.

With only 12 first-team players available for the trip to Valladolid, Zidane had to dip into Real's fountain of youth with youngsters Hugo Duro and Sergio Arribas coming on as substitutes.

Real Madrid's Brazilian midfielder Casemiro celebrates after scoringduring the Spanish league football match between Real Valladolid FC and Real Madrid CF at the Jose Zorilla stadium in Valladolid on February 20, 2021. / AFP / Cesar Manso
Real Madrid's Casemiro celebrates after scoring against Real Valladolid. AFP

Zidane did not hide his frustration over the injury crisis but praised his side for recording a fourth straight league win - courtesy of Casemiro's second-half header - in spite of their 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."