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Jan 29, 2013

Benzema relishing Copa Clasicos

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema says he expects another "great spectacle" when Barcelona travel to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu for Wednesday's Copa del Rey semi-final first leg clash.

With eyes around the world likely to be focused on Madrid for what will be the first of three Clasicos in four weeks, the France international believes the meeting between the two La Liga rivals is currently the biggest game in football.

"Real Madrid against Barcelona is the best match in the world," Benzema said. "We are two amazing teams. The fans get very excited about these games, these are great spectacles."

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Benzema is hopeful that the result when the teams last met at the Bernabeu - a 2-1 win for Madrid in August, which brought Jose Mourinho's side the Spanish Supercopa on away goals - will be repeated on Wednesday.

"The Clasicos are always different matches, but tomorrow we aim to score goals and win," he said. "Although we know there are two legs, we are at home tomorrow and we want to play well and win. We played really well against them in the the Supercopa second leg. We hope for another victory. We are ready for the match. Each year we are a better team. I do not think that Barcelona are favourites to win. They are a great team, but we are as well."

Madrid's readiness will be tested by suspension and injury issues which remove regulars Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao, but Benzema suggests that left-back Marcelo could return to help fill some of the gaps at the back.

"It would be better if everyone was available," he said. "But it is not necessarily more difficult. [Marcelo] was out for three months, but he is ready to play more now. It is good that we have him here."

Even with the missing players, Mourinho's favoured team shape will likely mean either Benzema or fellow centre-forward Gonzalo Higuain will be left out. The former Lyon man, though, accepts that the competition for places is a positive for the squad overall, even if it is frustrating for the individual player.

"I always want to play more," Benzema said. "I do not know a player who likes sitting on the bench. But it comes down to the manager's decision. That Higuain is in good form is good for the group. We both work hard to play more, that is good for everyone."

Regardless of the outcome of Wednesday's first leg, Benzema predicts the tie is likely to be decided in the return game at Barcelona's Camp Nou in late February - a venue where Madrid have done well lately.

"In Barcelona, I do not know why, but it is true that we have lost very few games there," he said.

Despite the latest revelations of disharmony in the Madrid camp that were revealed by Marca journalist and Casillas' partner Sara Carbonero on Mexican TV, Benzema feels the squad is united and such stories have no basis.

"We are very united," he said. "We do not have any problem with the coach. I do not know why people say there are issues between us."

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