Ancelotti backs Real Madrid captain Benzema to answer his critics
Carlo Ancelotti has backed Karim Benzema to play a big part in Real Madrid's end to the season.
The French striker has come in for criticism as Madrid have struggled for goals domestically in recent weeks, despite his brace against Liverpool in their 5-2 win at Anfield in the Champions League last-16 first leg.
Ballon d'Or holder Benzema has scored 11 goals in 15 LaLiga games but has not netted in his last three in all competitions, and he will be missing from the team for Saturday's home game with Espanyol because of an ankle injury.
"He was a key player for us [last season], he performed incredibly, scored more than 40 goals," Ancelotti said at a press conference on Friday.
"It affected us a bit [earlier this season] because he couldn't reach his top level. This second part of the season he has been important for us, and we think he will be key for us until the end of the season. He has a knock, and he has to get better."
Regarding Benzema's contract, which expires at the end of the season, Ancelotti said: "He has been here for so many years, I'm absolutely sure about what's going to happen next year, but I'm not a magician."
The Madrid head coach was also asked again about the possibility of signing long-term target Kylian Mbappe after Paris Saint-Germain's exit from the Champions League at the hands of Bayern Munich on Wednesday.
"Well, it's a question you can ask me whenever, but it is something to which I will never reply," he said.
Ancelotti confirmed Rodrygo will play as the central striker against Espanyol, adding: "He has to play where the team needs him, maybe at some point he can play as a winger to show his quality, or as a number 10, but he can play in different places."
He was also asked about criticism of him and his team for their recent form, having not won any of their three games since the success at Liverpool (D2 L1).
"I don't want to think about it, but it is always like this," Ancelotti said. "When there are difficult moments, criticism starts."