In today's pre-match presser in advance of a critical home match versus PSG, Rafa Benitez fielded a wide range of topics, from player fitness to anti-madridismo. Here's what went down.
On his injured players, including one big name which might finally make his comeback:
Benzema is on schedule, but neither he nor Bale nor Arbeloa are on the list. I spoke with James this morning and he says that he is ready to play, there's no problem. James will play tomorrow. If Colombia call him up he'll go, the only thing I hope is that he scores a lot of goals and comes back fit.
On his centerbacks and the wealth of options at the position:
One of the players that I appreciate the most is Pepe, because he's one of the veterans who understand his role, playing or not playing. It's an assurance to have him because he does not give up and Pepe helps the competition among the defenders. We all know Varane's potential. To play more or less depends on the competition.
On Jese and Gareth Bale competing for minutes:
Every player in this squad has to train well and play well. Jesé is more likely to play tomorrow than Bale.
When asked about the state of the team and what the future holds:
I hope that my best moment is yet to come. I think that the team looks good, but I also think we're going to get better. I hope that happens at the end of the season when we're challenging for titles.
Rafa also didn't hold back any punches on the press rumor that Mateo Kovacic was injured by a physio during an acupuncture session:
Kovacic? When we consider that a player has an overload we prefer not to risk him. But he is perfectly fine and is available. Everything that has come out in the press that someone has injured Kovacic is a lie.
And finally, his thoughts on PSG:
Real Madrid played a great match in Paris, but you can not deny the quality of PSG.PSG are among the best teams in Europe, without question. Tomorrow we play a very difficult match and we need to concentrate to win the three points for the classification.