Real Madrid CF will be facing FC Barcelona on Sunday night with a slight disadvantage after it has been confirmed that star striker Karim Benzema will remain sidelined due to injury. The club remained hopeful that the Frenchman could recover in time for the important match, but it is now certain that manager Carlo Ancelotti needs to find another solution.

Benzema raised concerns after he limped off the pitch in the closing minutes of Real Madrid's 3-0 victory over RCD Mallorca on Monday. He was in great form during the match, scoring twice on top of another from Vinicius Junior to seal the convincing victory which extended Los Blancos' lead at the top of the La Liga table to ten points.

Benzema underwent tests on Friday, which initially appeared to be optimistic. However, Marca reported that he missed training on Saturday morning. True enough, his name was missing from the squad list that was published later in the day. Ancelotti does have a number of forwards available, but Benzema has so far proven to be irreplaceable this season.

The Italian manager has included Eden Hazard and Gareth Bale, who are both struggling for play time in between injuries. Luka Jovic and Mariano Diaz are also both on the list, with the two strikers the most direct replacements available. However, in the rare opportunities they were given this season, they have not impressed.

Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes both had ups and downs, but have definitely shown moments of brilliance on some occasions alongside Vinicius Junior, who will most likely start.

Benzema's absence will be a major setback for Real Madrid, but they will have a moral upper hand after having been able to beat Barcelona in every single El Clasico since 2020, which is a winning streak of five matches. However, Barcelona have had a sudden resurgence of form since the January transfer window, with manager Xavi Hernandez effectively transforming the team from its dismal state from earlier this season.

Real Madrid are on top of the table, but they still need this victory to maintain momentum. Meanwhile, Barcelona need to win in order to start challenging Sevilla for second place. Much is at stake for both sides, and all eyes will be at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday night.

Karim Benzema
Hat-trick star: Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema celebrates AFP / JAVIER SORIANO