Real Madrid manager Rafael Benitez has indicated that James Rodriguez might not start against Real Betis and expressed his concern over the fitness of Karim Benzema.

Los Blancos face Real Betis at the Bernabeu in their first home game of the season, and will be looking to get the three points after the opening day draw against Sporting de Gijon. Benitez seemed content at the current size of his squad having sold Asier Illaramendi to Real Sociedad for a cut-price deal.

Rafa Benitez will take the call on starting XI at the last moment

The 55-year-old insisted that he would make the final call over the starting eleven just before the game. Speaking in his pre-match press conference, as quoted by the club’s official website, Benitez said:

a We’re training tomorrow and I’ll wait until the last moment to make my final decision about the line-up. The squad is narrower now and all our players are very important in my opinion. I’m going to try to ensure the team are at their best for each game. If that means playing Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema or Lucas and Cheryshev, that’s what I’ll try to do. I didn’t come here just to win the first game, but to create a well-oiled side and get to the end of the season winning matches and titlesa .

Benitez also spoke on James Rodriguez, who returned to the training later than his teammates following his participation in the Copa America with Colombia. The Spaniard insisted that if James does not start the game against Betis, it would be a ‘technical decision’ made by him.

a Players are given a few days off after a World Cup or a Copa Am rica. James joined up with us a bit later, within the usual timeframe, knowing that he’d be arriving without having done as much preseason as his team-mates. It’s a technical decisiona .

a There are people who like starting debates. James is a great player and is fundamental to our plans, as is Isco and the rest of their team-mates. What I’d like is for everyone to follow in James’ footsteps. I’m happy, I want… That’s what they need to do and then it’s up to me to make the decision. If he doesn’t play it’ll only because of a technical decision, there’s nothing to talk abouta .

He doesn’t have the same level of match fitness as his team-mate- Benitez on Benzema


Benitez also commented on Karim Benzema, who had missed most of the pre-season nursing a thigh injury. The Frenchman had been linked with a move to Arsenal FC for most of the transfer window, however, the 27-year-old quashed the rumours on Twitter recently. Benitez did indicate that Benzema might be available to come on from the bench if required and talked about the goal scoring target that he has set for the Frenchman this term.

a Having spent three weeks working by himself he doesn’t have the same level of match fitness as his team-mates. He’s ready to be put on but we’ll have to see for how long. We have to decide if he’s able to start and, if not, how many minutes he could be on the pitch fora .


a He’s a great player. He’s a forward who does almost everything well. His problem is that he has to play continually. The quality is there. He puts defenders off balance, can lose his marker and scores goals. He’s good at everything. I’ve given him a scoring target of between 20 and 25 goals, and also want him to keep on providing assists and everything else. He’s an extremely important player for us in attacka .