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Karim Benzema link-up play should give him the edge for starting role

Madrid must make the right call on his fitness levels but if Karim Benzema is ready to start he should be given the opportunity.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

The midfield is not the only selection dilemma for Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti ahead of his side's huge Champions League semi-final second leg against Juventus tonight.

The Italian also has a headache over how to line his attack up, albeit now a welcome one. Karim Benzema is the main man in the middle of Madrid's attacking trio but the fact he has not played for a month could swing the starting role in Javier ‘Chicharito' Hernandez's favour.

A few months ago the thought of fielding the Manchester United loan man would have filled Madrid fans with fear. However, the Mexican's winning goal against Atletico Madrid in the last round, as well as his brace in the 4-2 win at Celt Vigo and the energetic performances that have followed since faith has been placed in him have seen Chicharito as a viable and trusted alternative to the Frenchman.

Given Benzema's match fitness concerns and the possible need for extra attacking reinforcements depending on the score, both are expected to get their turn against the Serie A champions. The big decision is over who should start.

"He's [Benzema] in good shape and he's 100 per cent available," Ancelotti said at his pre-match press conference on Tuesday. "He has recovered and he is ready. He could play from the start or in the second half. Chicharito brings us penetration and keeps the opposition backline on its toes, while Benzema makes the whole team play better. With him, we can play a higher-quality attacking game because he makes the others play better."

Ancelotti's final decision will be based on Benzema's fitness levels - it is his place to lose. He is also the best starting option if, like Paul Pogba for Juventus, he can play at least an hour of the match at a good level.

Benzema's weight of importance may not be as high as Pogba's for Juventus but the former Lyon man links Madrid's attacking trio superbly - he has had enough time to get on the same wavelength as Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale and Madrid are likely to go with a front three against the ‘Old Lady'. His goals and assists records this season may not be at the level of Ronaldo but the Portuguese star is only up there because of the help of his team-mates, with the No.9 playing a central role.

Defending as a unit, front top to bottom, will also be key and with Andrea Pirlo sitting deep for the Italians it will be up to the Madrid attack to track back and cause the midfield maestro as many problems as possible to thwart his passing space. Bale tried that in Turin but Benzema will be more suited to it - again, fitness permitting.

The change will depend on the shape of the game but Chicharito can either be introduced to add more firepower alongside Benzema in a time of possible need or replace him in a like-for-like substitution. Hernandez can run for Mexico and with the Juventus defence tiring late on the loan star could do a perfect pressing job. He is also, of course, capable of popping up with another goal that could send Madrid to Berlin.

If Benzema is adjudged to be fit enough for at least an hour he could, and should, get the nod to form the ‘BBC' from the start but at least Ancelotti now has a capable alternative to turn to with his trust planted in Chicharito.

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