Real Madrids real Cristiano Ronaldo replacement cant wait to face Liverpool – Liverpool Echo

Liverpool might have got a more favourable Champions League quarter-final draw than they could have done, but the Real Madrid threat is still clear.

Since Cristiano Ronaldo departed for Juventus in 2018 – just after beating Liverpool in the final – Real Madrid have spent significantly on trying to replace him, not least bringing in Eden Hazard for a fee that could reportedly reach as much as £150m.

Their real replacement for Ronaldo, though, with Hazard having struggled with injuries, has been a player who was there all along in Karim Benzema.

The French forward is Real Madrid’s top scorer this season by such a distance that he has scored as many goals as the five players behind him in the scoring charts – Casemiro, Luka Modric, Vinicius, Marco Asensio and Sergio Ramos – put together.

The only Real Madrid man to have more assists than him this season is Toni Kroos with nine to Benzema’s six.

“Benzema is a striker but someone who defines himself as ‘a number nine with the soul of a number 10’,” said Real Madrid TV presenter and Spanish football expert Phil Kitromilides on the Behind Enemy Lines podcast (to be released on Tuesday, April 6).

“He can score goals but he creates goals as well and he has 17 this season in LaLiga with six assists.

“Cristiano Ronaldo left a big hole in the scoring charts but Benzema is trying to fill that, scoring lots of different types of goals.

“He is one of the most technically gifted footballers in the world but he is scoring goals now he didn’t score before – tap-ins and headers.

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“He now does the more typical number nine things and he is absolutely vital to Real Madrid – he is their top scorer with 17 league goals and Casemiro is second with five league goals.

“Without Benzema, they lack killer instinct. But he is so good at everything else as well: he missed games early on this season and Real Madrid really struggled.

“He will be licking his lips [at the patched up Liverpool defence].”

So too, strangely, will holding midfielder Casemiro, who is Real Madrid’s second-top goalscorer this season.

He will be another key threat that Liverpool will need to counter, with the midfield area, on the whole, a major strength of Real Madrid this season.

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Thiago Alcantara and the other players who make up the Liverpool midfield will need to win that particular battle if the Reds are to come out on top.

Fabinho will also be crucial against fellow countryman Casemiro, but Thiago especially, against a team he knows well, and in a competition he excels in, has a real chance to prove his worth.

“Four of Casemiro’s goals have been headers and all from Toni Kroos balls into the box,” Kitromilides added.

“That is something we are seeing a lot more of from Real Madrid, crosses into the box, and they are scoring a lot more headed goals.

“Casemiro is one of the best headers in the team.

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“He is the defensive midfielder but he gets forward quite a lot and has scored some really good goals.

“There is nobody like him in the squad.

“He is playing really well but also Kroos is playing really well and Modric is having one of the best seasons of his career – he’s 35 but he doesn’t look like it.

“The midfield is playing really well, Benzema is having one of the best seasons of his career, and Thibaut Courtois is having one of the best seasons of his career too.

“So the spine of Real Madrid is playing really well, and then there are other things for them to tweak.”