Karim Benzema will miss Real Madrid’s El Clasico clash with Barcelona on Sunday (stream LIVE at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.) with a calf injury.
The forward — who was hurt after scoring twice in Madrid’s 3-0 win at Mallorca on Monday — was unable to train with his teammates on Saturday, in their last session before the high-profile fixture.
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Benzema, 34, is LaLiga’s top scorer with 22 goals, as well as providing 11 assists, and his absence is a blow for Madrid as they look to close in on the title.
Madrid go into El Clasico top of the table, 15 points ahead of Barcelona, and have won their past five games in all competitions.
However, Barca’s form has also significantly improved under coach Xavi — after a rocky start to the season with predecessor Ronald Koeman — and have not lost in LaLiga since December.
The last time the two sides met, in January’s Spanish Supercopa semifinals, Madrid won 3-2 after extra time.
Karim Benzema is LaLiga’s top scorer this season. Photo by Rafa Babot/Getty Images
Madrid will also be without left-back Ferland Mendy, who picked up a hamstring injury against Mallorca, although winger Rodrygo, who had to be carried off during the same game, trained on Saturday and is expected to be available.
Madrid’s confidence was buoyed by their dramatic 3-1 comeback win against Paris Saint-Germain in their Champions League round-of-16 second leg last week, in which Benzema scored a 17-minute hat trick.
Friday’s Champions League quarterfinal draw saw them paired with Chelsea in the quarterfinals, before a possible semifinal against either Manchester City or Atletico Madrid.