Benzema a key cog in Madrid's BBC

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Such is Madrid's current strength in its attack that Madridistas have created a simple collecting term for their side's three-pronged attack of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo -- BBC.

Los Blancos have enjoyed growing success, highlighted by six wins since the turn of the year, as Carlo Ancelotti has gradually switched from using a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-3-3 one since the arrival of the Welshman in September. Ronaldo on the left, Benzema down the middle and Bale on the right. Almost 200 million pounds worth of attacking class.

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Angel di Maria, who, alongside Mesut Ozil, looked to be one of the men to miss out following Bale's arrival, has looked at home in the middle three alongside Luka Modric and Xabi Alonso when called upon. Jese Rodriguez has risen from hot prospect to hot topic and Alvaro Morata provides suitable back-up in the firepower department. Even Isco has featured in a "false 9" role in recent weeks, although whether he's effective in this position is still up for debate.

It's left opponents, even over in Catalonia (although they won't admit it) looking on with envious eyes, which is why newspaper reports in England suggesting that Florentino Perez is looking to bring Manchester United star Wayne Rooney to the Bernabeu have come somewhat out of the blue.

Perez, of course, loves to bring the best to grace the hallowed turf next to the Castellana, and United and England star Rooney is up there, especially in the Premier League. But while some thought Madrid's attacking line-up, minus Gonzalo Higuain remember, could be one of the club's weak points at the start of the season, it is now arguably its biggest strength (although Sergio Ramos & Co. will argue against that, given the current run of clean sheets). Simply put, Rooney is not required.

On top of that, Madrid eyes are also on a player not far away from Rooney's Old Trafford base. Luis Suarez is the only man ahead of Ballon d'Or king Ronaldo in the European Golden Shoe this season, scoring 22 for Liverpool, despite being banned for the start of the campaign. Ronaldo is on 21 following his strike in Madrid's 5-0 thumping of Real Betis in Seville at the weekend. The Uruguayan is the man of the moment and if his form at Anfield is not enough to tempt Perez, a good World Cup might do it.

Perez has also long been an admirer of former Atletico forward Sergio Aguero, who is doing the business in the Premier League with Manchester City. Madrid did not get in the way of Aguero's move to City from their near neighbours Atletico, but enough water may have passed under that bridge to see Los Blancos make a move for the Argentinian striker this summer. Falcao, now in France with Monaco, has also been on Madrid's hit-list. If Rooney was on it at all, he wouldn't be at the top, or in the top three.

But you can look closer to home for one of the reasons Rooney is not a priority this winter, or indeed in the summer: the Frenchman Benzema. While Madrid as a team has benefited from the arrival of Bale, if one player has upped his game on the back of the world-record arrival, it's the former Lyon man.

Whistled in the opening weeks of the campaign, despite scoring in Madrid's opening two matches, the 26-year-old is now a crucial part in the BBC line-up -- not just a player in the shadows of Madrid's wing wizards. Many bemoaned the sale of Higuain, who rotated with Benzema when the pair were together at the capital club, in those first few months, but Benzema has worked hard to make his doubters eat their words. Hard work was part of those bad vibes, or at least Benzema's perception of it, too. He's getting the goals, but he's also added a work ethic to his play.

He scored the winner at Espanyol in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarter-final on Tuesday night, his second goal on the spin after he found the back of the net at Betis -- three goals since the turn of the year, 12 for his club so far this season, compared to a grand total of 16 last season. A goal for France, too, when he was being hit by missiles there. He has 10 goals in his last 15 matches and is a striker in fine form in front of goal -- a striker thriving in arguably the best front three in world football.

He's not just impressing in the goal stats, either, with eight assists to his name so far -- as many as Ronaldo and one more than Bale. Beyond the stats, the Frenchman has shown a big desire to track back and help his teammates, as well as put pressure on the opposition high up the field. It's a new trait that's gone down well with the Bernabeu, and long may it continue.

It was always going to be a big season for Benzema. Many thought the rotation policy between he and Higuain under Jose Mourinho helped both players, but now it seems the contrary is being proved correct, for the time being at least. It has taken time, but Benzema is thriving as Madrid's main man in the centre of the attack. Maybe it's the Bale boost, maybe it's the fact more world-class players, including Suarez and Aguero, are being linked with a move in the summer. Benzema has to prove a point. The forthcoming World Cup should help, too.

Madrid's five-star showing at the weekend ensured they surpassed leaders Barcelona as La Liga's top-scorers with 58 overall to date. Twenty more have come in the Champions League group stages, three more than holders Bayern Munich. They're the biggest goal-getters in Europe and show no sign of slowing down. Granada may well bring their bus onto the Bernabeu pitch this weekend and park firmly in front of their goal.

Rooney rumours will come and, surely, go. Madrid's BBC is here to stay and Ancelotti will be hoping Benzema's current form is as well.


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