MADRID - Real Madrid striker Karim
Benzema has returned to form after a frustrating journey through
a goalscoring wilderness and the timing could scarcely be better
for the nine-times European champions.
Thanks to the France international's goal in last month's
1-1 first-leg draw, Real are well placed to get past Benzema's
former club Olympique Lyon on Wednesday and reach the last eight
for the first time since 2004.
"What happened was I found myself again, I found my true
level again," Benzema said in an interview with Spanish sports
daily As published on Monday.
"I am in a purple patch in my career and I know I have to
make the most of it," he added, as Real prepare to take on the
side that knocked them out at the same stage last term.
The 23-year-old Benzema struggled to live up to expectations
in the Spanish capital following his 35 million-euro move from Lyon in 2009.
After Gonzalo Higuain succumbed to a long-term back injury,
coach Jose Mourinho has shown more faith and a double in
Saturday's 2-0 win over Hercules took his tally to eight in his
last six outings and 19 in all competitions for the season.
A further boost to Mourinho is the news joint La Liga top
scorer Cristiano Ronaldo could be back from injury after the
Portugal forward sat out the last two league matches with a leg
Benzema secured his dream move to Spain after scoring 43
goals over five seasons for Lyon, helping them to four league
titles. He was Ligue 1's top scorer in 2007-08 with 20 goals.
He has netted five in his last three Champions League games
and has a total of 18 in just 30 matches in Europe's elite club
competition for Real and Lyon.
"At the moment everything I do is turning out well. That
little bit of luck is helping me score a lot of goals," he said.
Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas knows Benzema well and said
the striker's return to form was bad news for his club.
"I saw him play for France against Brazil in Paris (last
month) and he is a better player now in every sense, physically
and mentally," he told sports daily Marca on Monday.
"I think he sent a very clear message to Mourinho in the
first leg when he scored just after coming on. Mourinho is
obliged to play him and he has no choice but to play well. It's
not good news for us."
Lyon, on an unbeaten run of seven games in all competitions,
warmed up for Wednesday's match with a 2-0 win at Sochaux.
Argentine striker Lisandro Lopez has four goals in two games
and looks in devastating form and Lyon could welcome back France
playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and Brazil centre-back Cris from
"We should be at full strength," coach Claude Puel told
reporters after the Sochaux game, although full-back Aly Cissokho
is doubtful with a thigh strain.
Real Madrid: 1-Iker Casillas; 4-Sergio Ramos, 2-Ricardo
Carvalho, 3-Pepe, 12-Marcelo; 14-Xabi Alonso, 24-Sami Khedira;
22-Angel Di Maria, 23-Mesut Ozil, 7-Cristiano Ronaldo; 9-Karim
Olympique Lyon: 1-Hugo Lloris; 13-Anthony Reveillere,
3-Cris, 5-Dejan Lovren, 20-Aly Cissokho or 12-Thimothee
Kolodzieczak; 6-Kim Kallstrom, 28-Jeremy Toulalan, 29-Yoann
Gourcuff, 7-Jimmy Briand, 18-Bafetimbi Gomis, 9-Lisandro Lopez.
Referee: Damir Skomina (Slovenia)
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