'Benzema is back' – Ancelotti in bullish mood after Ballon d'Or holder's return to fitness

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Karim Benzema's return to full fitness has given Real Madrid a spring in their step heading into the second half of the season, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

Benzema struggled with persistent hamstring problems in the first few months of the season, which forced him to miss France's World Cup campaign in Qatar.

He has shrugged off those injury woes in recent weeks, though, scoring four goals in his past three games.

The latest came in Wednesday's Supercopa de Espana win over Valencia, which set up a mouth-watering final against arch rivals Barcelona on Sunday.

The Ballon d’Or holder is likely to lead the line against Xavi's side and Ancelotti is in no doubt the 35-year-old is fit and raring to go, declaring: "Benzema is back."

"That gives us a lot of confidence - for the next few games and for this second half of the season. He looks motivated and he's training well.

"He's a very important player for us. I think the team dealt well with his absence in the first half [of the season] and he'll help us in this second half."

Madrid enjoyed a magnificent 2022, winning the Champions League, LaLiga, Supercopa de Espana and UEFA Super Cup.

Ancelotti scoffed at suggestions his players might have become complacent after their recent success, insisting they are hungry for more trophies.

"It's not true [they are complacent]," he added. "We are talking about players who have not only won last year. They have started winning in 2013, and they will never have a full belly because they have a mental quality that is very high.

"Also, because we are in a very demanding club, and it doesn't allow you to have a full belly."