MADRID, November 6 – Real Madrid are expected to be without striker Karim Benzema for their tricky trip to Sevilla on Sunday after he was charged in an extortion case in his homeland involving a sex tape featuring fellow French international Mathieu Valbuena.
Benzema returned to Madrid on Thursday after spending Wednesday night in custody in Versailles, on the outskirts of Paris.
The 27-year-old hasn’t featured for Madrid since injuring his hamstring on international duty a month ago and is unlikely to be rushed back into action after a momentous week off the field.
In brighter news for Madrid boss Rafael Benitez, Gareth Bale could make his return after a three-week layoff with a calf problem as he trained along with the rest of the squad on Thursday.
James Rodriguez is also expected to make his first appearance in two months after he returned to the squad but was an unused substitute in Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Benitez’s men were heavily criticised for their display against the French champions despite sealing their place in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Moreover, they suffered another injury setback as Marcelo hobbled off with a thigh problem that has ruled him out of the trip to the Sanchez Pizjuan.
“There were good things, but also a lot of things which we have to reflect on,” admitted Madrid captain Sergio Ramos.
“On top of the poor play, the bad news is Marcelo’s injury. He was in great form.”
Kiko Casilla is also expected to deputise for Keylor Navas in goal after the Costa Rica international aggravated an adductor muscle injury in midweek.
Madrid will be particularly keen to rack up a fourth consecutive league win with Barcelona to come in their next outing after the international break.
The two giants of Spanish football are tied on 24 points at the top of the table.
Sevilla are in desperate need of the points themselves having slipped to 11th after just three wins in their first 10 league games.
The Andalusians were also outclassed by Manchester City 3-1 in the Champions League in midweek, but coach Unai Emery refused to accept that expectations should be tempered ahead of Madrid’s visit.
“At Sevilla we have always been strong in the face of adversity,” he said.
“On Sunday we have another great game to look forward to. These type of games always generate great expectations.”
Barcelona can edge ahead of Madrid for a few hours at least when they host fifth-placed Villarreal at the Camp Nou earlier on Sunday.
The Catalans remain hopeful the Yellow Submarine’s visit will be the last time they will be without Lionel Messi before he returns from knee ligament damage.
However, the European champions have only dropped three points in his absence thanks to the superb form of Neymar and Luis Suarez, who have now scored 18 of Barca’s last 21 goals after combining for all three in Wednesday’s 3-0 cruise over Bate Borisov.
Celta Vigo can make it a three-way tie at the top should they inflict more pain on Valencia on Saturday.
Los Che were beaten 1-0 by Gent in the Champions League in midweek and boss Nuno Espirito Santo’s job may be on the line with another defeat in Galicia.
Former Manchester United manager David Moyes could be another coach for the chop if his Real Sociedad suffer a sixth defeat of the season at Las Palmas on Friday.
Meanwhile, fourth-placed Atletico Madrid will be looking to bounce back from disappointing draws away to Deportivo La Coruna and Kazakh champions Astana in the past week when they host Sporting Gijon on Sunday.