Benzema dropped for crucial game amid coach feud - source

The Undertaker's trophy unveiling has Ronaldo giddy (0:38)

The Undertaker unveils the Riyadh Season Trophy before Cristiano Ronaldo's Al Nassr takes on Al Hilal. (0:38)

Karim Benzema has been left out of Al Ittihad's squad for their AFC Champions League game with Uzbekistani outfit Navbahor on Thursday amid a difficult relationship with his coach Marcelo Gallardo, a source confirmed to ESPN.

Gallardo doesn't consider Benzema fit enough for the trip after the 2022 Ballon d'Or winner returned late to his team's Dubai training camp during the Saudi winter break as he was stuck in Mauritius because of a storm. The player himself feels fit and ready to play, according to the source.

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Al Ittihad's game with Navbahor is the first leg of the AFC Champions League round of 16.

Benzema didn't feature in his team's return to Saudi Pro League action last week against Al Tai, which Al Ittihad won 3-0. That omission came after a row between Benzema and Gallardo over the player's participation in a training session.

For AFC Champions League matches, teams can only select five foreign players. For the Navbahor game, Gallardo decided to include N'Golo Kanté, Fabinho, Ahmed Hegazi, Romarinho and Abderrazak Hamdallah ahead of former France international Benzema.

The former Real Madrid captain, 36, signed for Al Ittihad last summer as a free agent. Despite success on the pitch -- 15 goals in 24 games in all competitions so far -- he has been underwhelmed by the quality of football in the Gulf nation.

Benzema considered his options in the January transfer window, sources told ESPN, but Al Ittihad refused to let him come back to Europe, instead attempting to loan him to another Saudi club, which Benzema refused.