Real Madrid and the leaders of the English championship challenge each other for the first time on Tuesday evening in the semi-finals of the Champions League. Show ahead!
Executioner of Paris SG and Chelsea in previous rounds, Karim Benzema represents Real Madrid’s No. 1 offensive asset on Tuesday (9pm), in the Champions League first leg, against Manchester City where the threat is much more evenly distributed.
After Gabriel Jesus quadrupled and the decisive pass against Watford on Saturday in the Premier League (5-1), it is difficult for the Citizens to imagine the absence of a real striker. The “false nine” system has nevertheless become one of Pep Guardiola’s trademarks wherever he went, whether he used it sporadically or regularly.
At City, it was only last season and under the constraint of Sergio Aguero’s repeated absences that this “plan B” gradually became “plan A” with the result of regaining the title of champions of England and a first champions League final.
Despite this, City went out of their way to sign Harry Kane last summer and many thought their failure would be a risk this season. It didn’t happen. For a team often faced with tightly packed defenses, having five, six or seven players on the pitch who can score from set pieces is a huge advantage.
Besides Jesus, Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Riyad Mahrez and Jack Grealish are all pure attacking players, but danger comes from everywhere. The Manchester City player who has scored the most goals in the Premier League is Joao Cancelo (66 shots), a fullback, if that means anything when playing for Guardiola.
False No. 9 position could fall perfectly for midfielders like Kevin de Bruyne, Bernardo Silva, even Ilkay Gundogan and even several players in turn in the same match. In the Champions League, Manchester City is best represented in the top 10 of players who average the most goals in 90 minutes, with Mahrez (3.3), de Bruyne (3), Sterling (2.5) and Gundogan ( 2.1).
At the top of this ranking is clearly Karim Benzema with an average of 4.2 shots per 90 minutes, and his 12th out of 22 goals scored by the Merengues in C1 this season, twice more than Mahrez, England’s top scorer who scored 24. †
Week after week, Benzema carries his club and Real’s European career owes him a lot. “It’s not about addiction, no. Real have already won without me, and Real will always win,” he protested recently in L’Equipe.
But the numbers and the scenario of the matches tell a different story. His hat-trick against PSG overturned a poorly started game, his realism at Stamford Bridge had given a lead (3-1) that proved invaluable on the return to Bernabeau (2-3), where he still scored the decisive goal. goal to crucify Chelsea in extra time.
Of course, and he’s the first to admit it, he’s not alone in the field. His resemblance to Vinicius Junior and the velvety legs of Luka Modric are a blessing to the outstanding finisher that he is. But his role goes far beyond the penalty area and even the field.
“He represents the completion of the team’s actions, but also the ability to read the different situations of the match, to help with possession… Calling him a striker is simplistic. It’s very complete,” said Carlo Ancelotti at the start of the season.
Benzema never hesitates to come back to the field, participate in the build-up, also address his teammates and develop leadership qualities, also underlined by the Italian coach. A profile that is also reminiscent of Harry Kane and which shows that if Guardiola knows very well how to do without, he too would dream of a “KB9” in his team.