Following guilty verdict, Madrid still rely on Benzema against Sevilla

Barcelona, Nov 25: Karim Benzema and the teams that employ him appear unfazed by his guilty verdict for having played a part in the sex tape blackmail plot against a former France teammate.
Hours after the conviction by a Versailles court on Wednesday, Benzema helped Real Madrid clinch a spot in the Champions League knockout phase for a 25th consecutive season by scoring in a 3-0 win at Sheriff in Moldavia.
Benzema should be back in action again on Sunday, when Madrid hosts Sevilla in a clash of two of the hottest teams in the Spanish league. Benzema, who denied any wrongdoing, was found guilty of being involved in an attempt to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena in 2015 over a sex tape thought to have been stolen from Valbuena’s mobile phone.
But Benzema’s one-year sentence was suspended, meaning he won’t do prison time. Benzema did not speak following Madrid’s win in Tiraspol, and coach Carlo Ancelotti said even he had not brought up the case with his striker.
“We haven’t spoken, but he’s relaxed,” Ancelotti said. “It’s something that was spoken about some time ago. The player is totally focused on his job. He seems calm and he played really well today.”
At age 33, Benzema is essential to Madrid. Once criticized in the Spanish capital for not making the most of his talent, he has emerged from Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow to become one of Europe’s most reliable scorers.
His goal against Sheriff was his 15th for Madrid this season, including a Spanish league-leading 12. That comes after he found the net 30 times last season.
France coach Didier Deschamps took notice in May when he recalled Benzema for the European Championship after having ostracized him for nearly six years because of the sex tape case.
Deschamps said, “I don’t have the capacity and no one does, not even Karim, of going back and changing the past. The most important thing is today and the future.”
The head of the French Football Federation said after the verdict that Benzema will remain eligible for the national team. “As far as the federation is concerned, there is no change,” federation president Noel Le Graet told L’Équipe. (AP)

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