Benitez: There’s nothing personal with James

Real Madrid head coach Rafael Benitez insists his decision to omit James Rodriguez from his starting XI for the opening fixture of the Liga season was purely tactical.

The Colombian was limited to 34 minutes from the bench as Madrid were held to a goalless draw at Sporting Gijon, but tweeted this week that he felt “better than ever”.

And Benitez has played down reports of a spat between the pair, stressing James’ importance to the side.

“James is a great player,” he told a news conference. “He’s fundamental, the same as Isco and his other team-mates.

“If James didn’t play it was due to a technical decision and not a personal matter.

“James is a very good player. He will be key for us and I will decide tomorrow who will play.”

Benitez’s men face Real Betis on Saturday and striker Karim Benzema could be set to make his return following a hamstring problem.

“Benzema doesn’t have the same match practice as his team-mates,” added Benitez. “We’ll see how many minutes he can play.

“Benzema is a great player and we need him to have continuity, he is fundamental for us in attack.”