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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Liverpool and Arsenal set for showdown

50-50 Challenge
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Benzema to miss France game

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema looks set to miss France's crucial World Cup qualifier against Spain next month, having been called to appear in a Madrid court on the day of the game in connection with a speeding offence.

Benzema, 25, was in court near Madrid on Thursday after his Audi RS5 4.2 FSI was clocked doing 216 kph (134 mph) in a 100 kph limit zone, following Madrid's loss at Granada in early February.

Los Blancos succeeded in getting the preliminary court sitting postponed from last Tuesday, so that their player could travel for the club's Copa del Rey semi-final at Barcelona. However, El Pais said on Friday that the case would now clash with the game between Les Bleus and La Roja, which will likely decide who tops Group I and qualifies directly for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

The Spanish paper have also reported that Benzema's club-colleague Michael Essien had received a €200 fine for driving at 150 kph on the same night [February 3]. A rented Porsche registered to Madrid was also apparently clocked at 260 kph on the same stretch of road, close to the exclusive La Finca residential development where both players live, along with many of their Madrid team-mates. A camera malfunction means Spanish police have been unable to identify the driver of the Porsche, and without this evidence they cannot bring a case.

El Pais say police later stopped both Benzema and Essien close to their homes, as well as Alvaro Arbeloa, Sergio Ramos and Jose Callejon, with all five players passing on-the-spot alcohol tests. On-loan Chelsea midfielder Essien accepted his more minor speeding offence and paid his fine at that point.

No player, nor their club, have commented on the incidents, however, El Pais spoke with Francisco Canes, president of the Asociacion Estatal de Victimas en Accidentes de Trafico, who called for justice to be done in the case.

"If any footballer, media star or any famous person does not respect the safety rules of the road they must be treated the same as any other normal citizen," Canes said. "There must be no favouritism. Furthermore, these people should take into account that they are an example for many people and that their actions could have grave repercussions."

Benzema has not played for Madrid since the Champions League last 16 first leg against Manchester United on February 13, apparently due to a knee injury which the club did not confirm officially.

If found guilty, the ex-Lyon striker could face up to six months in prison, but a long driving ban and heavy fine is more likely.

Benzema has, however, been involved in three separate motoring incidents since joining Madrid in the summer of 2009, and was fined €250 for a speeding offence in June 2011.