Ancelotti snaps back over Benzema absence talk ahead of World Cup

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Carlo Ancelotti snapped back at suggestions Karim Benzema is playing less for Real Madrid as a precautionary measure ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup with France.

The veteran forward has not played since a 3-0 win over Elche in LaLiga almost a fortnight ago, instead reduced to a spectator on the sidelines for Los Blancos with a hamstring problem.

With the World Cup set to start later this month, Benzema – who was omitted from Didier Deschamps' title-winning squad at Russia 2018 – is hopeful of making the cut.

Speaking ahead of Madrid's Champions League clash with Celtic on Wednesday, Ancelotti shut down discussions the Ballon d'Or winner has been absent in order to facilitate his ticket to Qatar.

"Benzema hasn't played because he's picked up a couple of injuries," said the Italian. "He's 34, he looks after himself, and he's in good shape.

"He just hasn't been available. I am sure it is nothing to do with the World Cup, because a player needs to be fit and in good shape ahead of such a tournament.

Ancelotti hinted Benzema could make his return in midweek, as Madrid look to lock up top spot in Group F against their Scottish visitors at Santiago Bernabeu.

"He is training now," he added. "I have to decide if he starts, or if he features in the match. It depends on how he is feeling."

Benzema will be among the names Deschamps will almost certainly wish to include when he picks his squad for their title defence next week.

France will already be without World Cup winner Paul Pogba after the Juventus playmaker was confirmed to have fallen short in his recovery timetable.