Zidane: Benzema 'makes the guys around him play'

By Sports Desk April 21, 2021

Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane has heaped praise on Karim Benzema after his double in Wednesday's 3-0 win at Cadiz lifted Los Blancos into top spot in LaLiga.

The France international striker took his LaLiga season tally to 19 goals, closing within four strikes of league top scorer Lionel Messi.

Benzema converted a penalty on the half hour, before adding Madrid's third in the 40th minute.

"I’m delighted with how he’s performing," Zidane said post-game. "We know how important he is to our game and not just because of his goals.

"He makes the guys around him play, we enjoy watching him and I hope Real Madrid can continue enjoying him for a long time to come."

Madrid's win moves them ahead of Atletico Madrid on goal difference for the time being although Atleti are due to play on Thursday against Huesca.

Zidane was delighted to see his side sitting top of LaLiga albeit temporarily while also being through to the Champions League semi-finals.

"We’re still alive in both competitions and we keep going," Zidane said.

"We’ve picked up three very important points to keep us in the race, but there’s still a long way to go."

Zidane also praised his side's defence, having only conceded twice in their past six matches in all competitions.

He deployed a three centre-backs against Cadiz, with Marcelo and Odriozola getting up and down the flanks as wing-backs to good effect.

"We haven’t conceded a goal for three games and that’s pleasing for me," Zidane said.

Luka Modric was absent for the game with a back issue although Zidane was hopeful he would be in contention for the weekend's league game against Real Betis.

"He felt something in his back but I don’t think it’s anything serious," Zidane said.

"We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and I hope he can be back with us straight away."

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    Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane says his side will go until the final minute in the LaLiga title race after closing within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

    Madrid won 4-1 away to Granada to keep the pressure on the leaders with games to go, while moving ahead of third-placed Barcelona who are a further two points back after their 3-3 draw at Levante earlier in the week.

    Atletico remain in the box seat to clinch their first LaLiga title since 2013-14, but Zidane's side remain in the hunt should there be any slip-ups.

    "We'll keep going; there are two games left and we'll go to the end, until the final minute, we'll give it our all," Zidane said post-game.

    Atletico's final two league games are at home to 11th-placed Osasuna and away to 18th-placed Valladolid, while Real go to ninth-placed Athletic Bilbao and host seventh-placed Villarreal on the final day.

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 16 games in LaLiga (W11 D5), the best current unbeaten run in the competition. In addition, Los Blancos have equalled their best unbeaten run in a single league campaign under Zidane, achieved in 2016-17 (P16 W12 D4).

    Zidane was delighted with the win at Granada which loomed as a tricky assignment in the run home.

    "It's not just about the goals," the Frenchman said. "We played very well, defensively too.

    "We started the game very well, it was a complete performance. I say that because at 2-1 we didn't let our intensity drop, we scored again quickly and that shows our character.

    "Thibaut [Courtois] made two or three saves, as he has been doing lately, but it's all good. In general terms it was a good win against a decent side at a tough place to come, because Granada are a side who have had a fantastic year."

    Marvin was substituted at half-time after a hamstring issue, while Marcelo did not play due to a minor injury concern as Zidane fielded his youngest starting XI all season.

    "Marvin picked up a knock. I hope it's nothing serious but yes, he felt something in his hamstring," Zidane said.

    "Marcelo didn't play because of an injury and we didn't want to take any risks, as always. The injury is the reason why he didn't come with us."

  • Bailey set to be out of action for Leverkusen after injuring toe Bailey set to be out of action for Leverkusen after injuring toe

    Bayer Leverkusen winger and Jamaica international Leon Bailey could be set for a spell on the sideline after sustaining a toe injury against Werder Bremen last weekend.

    The 23-year-old suffered the injury after a collision early in the match but played until halftime before he was withdrawn.  Bailey, who it is feared might have suffered a fractured toe, did not take part in the team’s training session on Wednesday.

    Leverkusen will be looking to secure UEFA Europa League qualification at home to Union Berlin on Saturday.  Should he be unable to take the field, the Jamaican will be a major miss, particularly given his form at home this season. 

    Bailey has scored five goals in the last two home games.  Leverkusen have won all three of their fixtures at the Bay Arena under interim coach Hannes Wolf.  Bailey, who was also not called to the Jamaica national team, for its friendlies next month due to a contractual issue, has played eight times for the country since making his debut in 2019.

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