El Centrocampista

Brilliant Benzema poses Jose Mourinho some difficult questions in Madrid


Barcelona’s best ever start to a La Liga campaign has left Real Madrid staring up the table at  their bitter rivals, who, according to some are not playing as well as they did last year. Jose Mourinho and his men have had a somewhat disjointed start to the campaign and after only 12 games played, sit a considerable eight points behind Tito Vilanova’s side – and more worrying for their fans, five points behind city rivals Atletico.

This unconvincing start has lead many to suggest the league has already been lost –  with talismanic Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo unable to carry to the team alone. Cue Karim Benzema.

The talented Frenchman initially struggled to adapt to the Spanish game following his big-money move from Lyon in 2009, however, after receiving some stinging criticism Benzema has again found the form that once made him one of European football’s most explosive strikers.

The 24-year-old’s performance last weekend against Athletic Club, is a case in point and was nothing short of excellent.  One goal, one assist and one half goal – shared with a slight deflection off of defender Jon Aurtenetxe,  contributed towards his team’s  5-1 drubbing of Bilbao and gave Mourinho a glimpse of the talismanic forward’s potential.

A mid-week trip to Manchester followed, against Premier League champions Manchester City, with Mourinho’s side  requiring  a draw to qualify for the knock-out stages. Benzema started and, once again, delivered as he scored Madrid’s goal in an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Etihad Stadium.

Having now scored in consecutive games, Benzema looks to have found his goalscoring form again, one that should come naturally to a striker whose effortless precision oozes quality in front of goal – evident in his finish against Bilbao.

The abundance of talent surrounding the French international has also played its part in his stop start career so far at the Bernabeu of course, with Benzema  battling for a starting berth with players such as Gonzalo Higuain, however, it has also served in his favour. With a squad that boasts the likes of Ronaldo, Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, Luka Modric,and Xabi Alonso, it is difficult to see why Benzema would ever fail to find the back of the net.

As it transpired, Madrid’s performance against Athletic was more of a statement than a football match. One that would have sent a resounding reminder to Barcelona and Atleti  that the reigning league champions will not give up their crown without a fight. Admittedly the resounding win came against a side that are all but a shadow of the side that wowed Europe last season, however, to thump five past them is still no mean feat.

Yet questions remain over where Benzema’s Real Madrid career will go from here?

Not another destination, no. However, with the injured Higuain targeting the Madrid derby as a comeback, Benzema may have limited time to establish himself as Jose Mourinho’s undisputed number one choice up front. An away trip to Pepe Mel’s Real Betis side is next on the agenda – a side that have had an impressive start to their season and currently lie sixth in La Liga. However, after a 5-1 drubbing against neighbours Sevilla on Sunday may leave them battered, bruised and vulnerable.

Then again, the Andalusians will be looking to bounce back from that hammering, and what better way to kick-start their season than with a result against the champions?

Benzema will be eyeing this game in anticipation of grabbing his third goal in as many games, against a defence that has struggled to keep goals out so far this term. Madrid on the other hand do not suffer the same problems. With the joint meanest defence in La Liga, Madrid will be on the front foot looking to add to their impressive tally of 32 goals, bettered only by Messi and his team.

One can only imagine the thoughts of Paulao and Mario at the heart of the Betis rear-guard at this point; Benzema has been let loose and admits himself that he is not at his best yet, a sobering reminder to Mourinho perhaps that come 1 December he will have a difficult choice to make. Will it be Gonzalo Higuain or Karim Benzema taking their place in Real Madrid’s starting XI?


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