Benzema-led Real Madrid in search for quarterfinal spot vs in-form Atalanta

Sports Desk, Mar 15 (efe-epa).- Real Madrid are to host Atalanta on Tuesday in the Champions League last-16 second leg, hoping that in-form Karim Benzema lead them to finish up what they started in Italy, when they snatched a last-minute 1-0 win.

The narrow advantage, however, does not guarantee a first quarterfinal appearance in three years for the Spanish powerhouse, which squandered 2-1 away lead to fall at home against Ajax at the same stage a couple of years ago.

Even in their first leg win against Atalanta, Real Madrid had to wait until the final stretch to find the back of the net against a team that played shorthanded for the most of the game after Remo Frueler was sent off in the 17th minute.

This time, however, they can count on Benzema, their 2020-2021 La Liga top scorer, who missed the first leg due to a muscle injury, troubles that seem to be a thing of the past.

Once back, the French forward proved to be decisive, salvaging Real Madrid in a 1-1 draw against La Liga leader Atletico Madrid with a last minute goal, before leading his team to rally for a 2-1 home win over Elche with a brace.

Los Blancos, however, will continue to do without Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard, who sustained yet another injury after playing 15 minutes against Elche a couple of days ago in his first appearance after recovering from a thigh muscle issue that kept him out of action for six weeks.

“Following tests carried out today on our player, Eden Hazard, by the Real Madrid Medical Services, he has been diagnosed with a muscle injury in the right psoas. His recovery will continue to be assessed,” the club said in a statement said.

Atalanta, meanwhile, will hope to follow in the footsteps of Ajax, with high morale having fallen only to Serie A leader Inter Milan in four games they played since losing to Real Madrid.

Elsewhere, Manchester City will take on Borussia Monchengladbach and aim to build on a 2-0 first leg advantage.

Heading into the game, the English team crushed Southampton 5-2 and Fulham 3-0 after falling to their crosstown rivals Manchester United who stopped their 21-match winning streak. EFE-EPA

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