Reports emerging from Spain suggest Karim Benzema's absence for Real Madrid in the club's Champions League semi-final second-leg against Barcelona may have been down to the player's refusal to criticise referees in interviews with the press.
Barcelona's 3-1 aggregate victory in the semi-final tie against Madrid has been overshadowed by continuing bad relations between the clubs, with Jose Mourinho in a spot of bother for his criticism of the Catalan club and first-leg referee Wolfgang Stark.
Spanish newspaper El Pais has led with suspicions claiming that the club's criticism of refereeing decisions is a deliberate strategy devised by Mouirnho to deflect the attention away from their poor performance in the first-leg of the Barcelona tie.
In the build-up to the second-leg, Benzema told Spanish media: "I'm not here to talk about referees. I want to talk about the match. We have to score goals but we're a great team and we will try to win."
The Spanish media are reporting that it is not the first time Mourinho has left out a player for not following his orders, with Cristiano Ronaldo having been left out of the squad against Zaragoza last weekend for apparently criticising his compatriot's tactics.
"Yesterday, some were concluding in whispers that Benzema, like Cristiano [Ronaldo] against Zaragoza, was sidelined for not obeying the [Mourinho's] order that he [Benzema] should state the referees are responsible for everything," reported El Pais.
Nobody from the club, Mourinho nor Benzema have yet commented on the issue.
Real Madrid are back in La Liga action on Saturday evening when they travel to Sevilla in the hope of closing Barcelona's gap at the summit of the table to five points.