Real Madrid v Sevilla preview: Karim Benzema set to return for hosts
By PA Sport
Last Updated: 20/03/16 11:34am
Karim Benzema is in line to return for Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane's side host Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.
Benzema has not played since last month's derby defeat to Atletico due to injury, but he has been included in a 19-man squad to face Sevilla.
Zidane has insisted his focus is completely on the upcoming game and not on the Clasico showdown against Barcelona that awaits his side immediately after the international break.
Madrid will be desperate to avenge November's humiliating 4-0 home defeat to Barca when they make the trip to the Nou Camp on April 2, but Zidane is not looking beyond this weekend's clash - a game the Frenchman expects to be far from easy.
"I'm thinking of the game with Sevilla, not the one in the Nou Camp," Zidane said. "After tomorrow's game there will be a break to prepare for the next. The first is tomorrow. It's going to be a very difficult game because it's against a very strong opponent.
"Maybe they have some absentees but they have a team with very good players. I'm sure that it will be difficult."
Zidane is without defenders Sergio Ramos and Pepe for the match but has all his attacking big guns available, including Benzema.
Aside from his injury problems, Benzema's off-field issues have also been well documented and he was again omitted from the France squad this week, casting further doubt on whether he will be part of his country's squad for Euro 2016 this summer.
Asked his opinion on Benzema - who has not been part of the national set-up since October after being questioned by police in connection with an alleged blackmail plot against international team-mate Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape - Zidane said: "I'm not getting into that.
"They are still investigating. What I want is the player to only focus on playing football and think about tomorrow's game. He looks fine (mentally) to me and physically as well. Now I want him to think about football and nothing else."
Madrid started the weekend in third place in La Liga but a massive 12 points adrift of arch-rivals Barca, who look to have the league all but sewn up.
The good news for Zidane's men is they are 10 points clear of Villarreal in fourth, meaning they are well on course to secure Champions League football once again.
It is a different story for Sevilla, who are fifth and one of a host of teams chasing Villarreal for the coveted fourth spot.
Villarreal are at home to runaway leaders Barcelona this weekend, but Sevilla know that if they want to have a chance of closing the five-point gap to the Yellow Submarine they will have to do something they have not managed since 2008 - win at the Bernabeu.
Sevilla beat Madrid 3-2 at home earlier in the season but they have lost on their last eight visits to Real.
Sevilla boss Unai Emery is without a number of players including Ever Banega and Yevhen Konoplyanka, and knows the task at hand.
"The difficulty is very great because at home they are very strong and went to make their fans happy," Emery said. "We have the challenge and the opportunity to show that the team is growing and moving forward. Tomorrow is the day and we want to show what we can. The difficulties motivate us more."