Gareth Bale was omitted from Real Madrid's squad to face Manchester City in the Champions League because he did not want to play, according to Zinedine Zidane.

On Wednesday, Madrid named a 24-man group to travel to the Etihad Stadium and while captain Sergio Ramos was included – despite the fact he cannot play in the second leg due to suspension – there was no place for Bale.

The Welshman scored twice in the 3-1 Champions League final win over Liverpool two seasons ago but will play no part as Madrid seek to overturn a 2-1 first-leg deficit against Pep Guardiola's side in the last-16 tie on Friday.

Bale has started just once since February – and has been restricted to 110 minutes combined since Madrid's campaign resumed in June – and Zidane explained it was the 31-year-old's decision not to be involved in Manchester.

"I will explain because many things are said," Zidane told reporters in a news conference.

"We have a relationship of respect between player and coach, that is clear. The only thing I can say is that he has decided not to play, and the rest is between him and me."

Zidane grew increasingly frustrated at answering questions on Bale, who may appear to have no future at Madrid but remains under contract until 2022.

"I have already answered before about the situation. The rest is a conversation between the player and the coach, and I am not going to tell you anything," Zidane added.

The fourth and final question on Bale – surrounding his future with Los Blancos – was met with a straight bat.

"Gareth Bale is a Real Madrid player, nothing changes. I respect that," Zidane replied.

"He has decided not to play. All of us here are focused on tomorrow's game."

Eden Hazard is part of Madrid's travelling party, though he has experienced an injury-hit debut season in the Spanish capital.

He was out between November and February due to an ankle problem and then sustained a broken ankle bone, with the congested end-of-season LaLiga run-in causing him further discomfort, yet Zidane has been encouraged by his condition since.

"He has had some discomfort about the end of LaLiga, but I think he is much better now, we have had time to prepare for the game and now he is confident," the Madrid boss added.

"I think there was a minor setback after that second injury but now hopefully he can play and hopefully there will be nothing there to hold him back."

He might have a winners' medal in his pocket at the end of his first LaLiga season, but Eden Hazard is in no mood to spare himself.

Long touted as a potential marquee signing for Real Madrid, the Belgium star made the move to the Santiago Bernabeu for an initial €100million last June.

However, by the time Zinedine Zidane had masterminded a post-lockdown overhaul of Barcelona to claim the title, the dream had long since turned into something of a nightmare.

"We have won the title collectively this year, considering it has certainly been the worst season of my career individually," Hazard told France Info after injury woes – most notably a broken foot that required surgery – restricted him to 16 top-flight appearances.

He scored once in 1,086 LaLiga minutes and has failed to find the net in five Champions League appearances for the 13-time winners so far.

The peculiarity of this elongated season means a chance to salvage something arrives on Friday in familiar surroundings.

Madrid are 2-1 in arrears ahead of their last-16 second leg against Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium. If a remontada is to become reality, they will probably need an individual to step up and produce something truly special – particularly considering talismanic captain Sergio Ramos is suspended.

It was another Belgian, Kevin De Bruyne, who stole the show in the Spanish capital back in February as he majestically created Gabriel Jesus' equaliser before dispatching the winner from the penalty spot.

Although firm friends throughout their gilded careers, it is hard to imagine the distinction of being Belgium's outstanding footballer lying elsewhere sitting too well with the lavishly gifted Hazard.

Perhaps an outing in east Manchester can stir a return to his very best.

In December of the 2016-17 season, City and Chelsea were neck and neck at the top of the Premier League when the Londoners travelled north.

De Bruyne hit the crossbar from point-blank range with the hosts 1-0 up and then Hazard took over, the master conductor as Antonio Conte's Blues took apart Pep Guardiola's men on the counter-attack. He scored the game-sealing goal in a 3-1 victory as a disintegrating City finished with Sergio Aguero and Fernandinho sent off.

In the return match at Stamford Bridge, Hazard netted a brace in 2-1 win that put Chelsea on the brink of the Premier League title.

His efforts that year yielded 16 goals and five assists, sitting handsomely alongside the 14 goals and nine assists from 2014-15 when he first inspired the Stamford Bridge outfit to glory. City came second in that earlier campaign and Hazard walked off with the PFA and FWA end-of-season awards.

There is no suggestion that, at 29, Hazard will not be able to scale such heights again. Whether he can this week, however, is another matter.

Zidane seems to be as in the dark as anyone else.

"I think Eden had little [injury] problems recently because, when he finished playing [against Villarreal], he had problems; he didn't end well," he told reporters after Hazard's final appearance of the LaLiga season in Madrid's penultimate match.

In the final six games of the campaign, the after-effects of Hazard's injury woes restricted him to 70 minutes on the field. The outing against Villarreal accounted for 62 of those.

"I hope that, with this break, he recovers completely," Zidane added. "Those that know about this, about looking after players, will try to get Eden well again."

It is probably wise to look towards 2020-21 with a clean slate. But maybe all it will take is one elegant shuffle of the feet, a deft lay-off or one of those beautifully balanced dribbles for the memories to come flooding back – for both Hazard and those in sky blue trying to stop him – in the country where he forged a path to the top of the game.

Fabio Capello believes the burden of wearing the Real Madrid shirt proved too much for Eden Hazard in his debut season at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Former Chelsea winger Hazard made a €100million move to Spain ahead of the 2019-20 season, but injuries blighted his first campaign with Los Blancos.

He made 14 starts and 16 appearances in total in LaLiga, scoring only once and managing a modest three assists.

That was way down on the form of his final season at Chelsea, where he netted 16 times and had 15 assists in 37 Premier League games, including 32 starts.

"Of course, he hasn't been the same as he was at Chelsea," former Madrid head coach Capello told Marca. "He has been injured for a long time, he has not adapted.

"I've always thought of him as a great player. But let's be clear, the Real Madrid shirt weighs a lot and Hazard has sunk this year. It is clear that next season will be much better."

Hazard himself admitted it had been "the worst season of my career", even though it was a title-winning campaign with Madrid.

The success owed a large part to the intrepid forward play of Karim Benzema, who finished second, behind Lionel Messi, in the Pichichi reckoning after hitting 21 goals.

Benzema's leadership of Madrid's attack was priceless, given Hazard was not the only forward who struggled for form.

Others who contributed little to the goals tally included Gareth Bale, Rodrygo, Vinicius Junior and Luka Jovic, who between them netted just nine times.

Capello, who has had two spells in charge of Madrid and also led the likes of Milan, Roma, Juventus, England and Russia, was full of praise for Benzema, describing his efforts as "sensational".

The French striker joined Madrid in 2009 from Lyon, and is going from strength to strength in his thirties.

"He has become the benchmark for Real Madrid. Undoubtedly the best," Capello said. "He has taken the responsibility that he did not have when he was with Cristiano Ronaldo.

"For me, it was the best season since he arrived."

Frank Lampard believes Christian Pulisic's impact on Chelsea is comparable to Eden Hazard's at Stamford Bridge.

Pulisic scored and provided an assist after coming off the bench during the second half of Chelsea's 5-3 Premier League loss to Liverpool on Wednesday.

The United States international, 21, has scored nine league goals and provided four assists in 24 games, comparable to Hazard's first campaign (nine goals and 11 assists in 34 matches) at Chelsea in 2012-13.

Lampard lauded the attacker and said Pulisic's impact on Chelsea was similar to Hazard's, with the Belgian having left for Real Madrid last year.

"He is hugely important. He has had that impact," the Chelsea head coach told a news conference.

"I was here for Eden's first year and it's not easy to come into the Premier League, even for Eden in that first year, and adapt to the Premier League. Christian has had his moments of that.

"Since mid-season he's had a really good patch, since the restart he has been in incredible form. Only the injury he picked up in the Norwich game has kept him out of the [FA Cup] semi-final when he is flying.

"Today he comes on and has 40 minutes, which is great for the injury to feel confident with it and shows the quality that he has been showing. He's so young, he has got such natural talent. He scores goals, he creates goals and he is a big player for us. Delighted to see him come through fit. Clearly he will be a big player for us in these next few games but going forward as well."

Chelsea twice trailed by three goals against Liverpool, who sealed their win late on after the visitors had come back to a 4-3 deficit.

But Lampard had no criticism for under-fire goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, with Liverpool producing several good finishes.

"I wouldn't talk about individuals in a game where we have conceded those goals. Some were real quality Liverpool finishes, particularly the free-kick [from Trent Alexander-Arnold]," he said.

"There were some collective and individual errors for them but what we did do was contribute towards a really good game. At 4-3 it felt like we would get back into the game. I felt it throughout. At 3-0 it was difficult but even at 3-1 and what that gave us and the way we were playing in the game.

"We know where we're at and we know if we make mistakes like that against a team of the quality of Liverpool, this is what can happen. But there were a lot of good things in the game so I certainly don't want to get into an individual conversation about players. 

"We've now got two big domestic games to play this week. It's important we go in together as players, fans, everybody, to finish the season how we want."

With one league game remaining, Chelsea are a point clear of fifth-placed Leicester City, while they will face Arsenal in the FA Cup final on August 1.

Luka Modric insists Real Madrid always believed they would get back to winning trophies after Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in 2018.

The Portugal star departed Madrid for Turin in a €112million deal shortly after winning his fourth Champions League with Los Blancos and tasted Serie A glory in his first season in Italy.

Madrid went on to win the 2018 Club World Cup but otherwise endured a disappointing season, with Barcelona claiming the league title, Liverpool winning the Champions League and Valencia lifting the Copa del Rey.

However, with Zinedine Zidane installed as head coach again in March last year, Los Blancos emerged triumphant during the disrupted 2019-20 season to win the league title again.

Modric insists there was never a problem in terms of the team's ambition once Ronaldo had left for Juve.

"It's pointless discussing how important Ronaldo was for Real, but I must say we were not burdened by the fact he was no longer there in the sense that we weren't able to generate the same ambition," he told Sportske Novosti.

"We were convinced we'd continue to win trophies even without him because, regardless of the strength of the individual, the team is always above everything."

Eden Hazard joined Madrid from Chelsea last year for €100million in a deal seen by many as a means to fill the void left by Ronaldo on the left of the Madrid attack.

However, the Belgium international's first season in Spain has been blighted by injuries, and he only managed 14 league starts.

Modric, though, has advised Hazard to be patient when it comes to rediscovering his best form, just as he did after joining from Tottenham in 2012.

"I loved watching him at Chelsea. Since he came [to Madrid], he hasn't had any luck with his health. You could see how eager he was to play and show what he can do," Modric said.

"I went through those stages of high expectations and the process of adjusting, of the disruptive bad luck, so I told him he just has to be patient."

Eden Hazard admitted his first year with Real Madrid has been the worst season of his career.

Former Chelsea star Hazard cost Madrid an initial fee reported to be €100million last July but has endured an injury-plagued 2019-20.

A hamstring issue delayed his debut for Los Blancos, while foot and ankle problems have contributed to him starting just 21 games in all competitions.

Madrid have won the Supercopa de Espana and LaLiga in 2019-20 and remain in the Champions League, though they lost the first leg of their last-16 tie against Manchester City 2-1.

While Hazard was pleased to have got off to a triumphant start at the Santiago Bernabeu, he acknowledged he contributed little to the cause.

"There have been injuries, but I hope next year will be even better," Hazard, who was left out of the squad to face Leganes on Sunday, told franceinfo.

"Even if this season had not been terrible for me, I couldn't have asked for a better experience than coming here and winning the league in my first year.

"This year, it is collectively that we won the title, because on an individual level I have surely had the worst season of my career."

If Madrid overturn their deficit against City, they will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarter-finals when the Champions League heads to Lisbon.

"It was a somewhat bizarre season with everything that happened," said Hazard.

"The season is already very good, but I think it can be even better if we progress from our last-16 second leg of the Champions League.

"When you play for Real Madrid, you want to win all the possible titles. The next one, it has to be the Champions League, even if it's going to be difficult because we have to play at Manchester City and they have a very nice team."

Guiding Madrid to LaLiga glory saw Zinedine Zidane take his trophy haul across two spells in charge to 11 – three shy of Miguel Munoz's club record.

"We all know Zidane as a player, he was the best. As a coach, we don't even need to describe him anymore," said Hazard.

"He has proven, in just a few years, that he is already one of the best coaches. He trusts his players and his players trust him. That's why it works."

Madrid are on course to concede the fewest amount of goals in a 38-game LaLiga season in their history, and Hazard thinks having "one of the best centre-backs in history" in Raphael Varane has been key.

The winger said: "In my career, I have known very great defenders, such as John Terry or Vincent Kompany.

"I think Rapha, even though he is still young, is already one of the best centre-backs in history. The partnership he has with Sergio Ramos is great."

Eden Hazard, Gareth Bale and James Rodriguez have been omitted from Real Madrid's squad to face Leganes.

Zinedine Zidane's side will conclude their triumphant LaLiga campaign on Sunday, unblemished form since the resumption seeing off bitter rivals Barcelona with a game to spare.

Los Blancos' 34th Spanish title has been secured largely without the input of Hazard, Bale and James.

Hazard has struggled for form and fitness since joining from Chelsea for €100million before the start of the season.

The 29-year-old Belgium international was still recently feeling the effects of surgery on a broken foot and, although he started for the first time in five matches in the title-clinching 2-1 win over Villarreal, he will miss out this weekend.

Hazard is still expected to have a productive future at Madrid, although it is hard to say the same for Bale and James.

Wales forward Bale has become an increasingly marginalised figure since Zidane's return last term. He has appeared just twice since the restart and the 31-year-old's absence from Sunday's travelling party will end a run of six matches as an unused substitute.

It will be James' fifth game in a row in which he has not been involved. The Colombia playmaker spent the previous two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich and his only appearance of 2020 came when he was handed a surprise start in last month's 2-1 win at Real Sociedad.

James, 29, has a year left on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu, while Bale's terms run through until 2022.

After facing Leganes - who sit third bottom and must extend their superb late-season form to four wins from five unbeaten matches to have a chance of survival - Madrid travel to face Manchester City on August 7, when they will attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit in the Champions League last-16 tie.

Zinedine Zidane has described Eden Hazard's predicament at Real Madrid as complicated after leaving the Belgium international as an unused substitute during Monday's 2-1 win at Granada.

Early goals from Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema set up a victory that moved Madrid to within touching distance of LaLiga glory.

Hazard arrived from Chelsea for €100m before the start of the campaign but injury struggles – most notably a broken ankle – have seen him play a minimal part this term.

The 29-year-old has been restricted to 15 league appearances and has only featured for eight minutes since back-to-back starts against Real Mallorca and Espanyol at the end of last month.

After a ninth consecutive victory, Zidane told reporters Hazard's fitness was still not up to scratch.

"A player has to be in very, very, very good shape to play and he's not fully okay," he said.

"The situation is a little bit complicated, but I hope that he can be 100 per cent fit on Thursday and help the team. That's what he wants."

Madrid host Villarreal on Thursday, knowing victory for themselves or anything less than three points for Barcelona will see them crowned champions.

Christian Pulisic plays with a more direct style than Eden Hazard but has plenty to do to match the Belgium superstar's exploits at Chelsea, according to Frank Lampard.

United States international Pulisic has enjoyed a rich vein of form since the Premier League resumed, scoring in wins over Aston Villa and Manchester City and dazzling once again during the 3-0 victory against Watford on Saturday.

The 21-year-old's quicksilver showings in a wide attacking role have invited comparisons with Hazard, who moved to Real Madrid last year after seven decorated seasons at Stamford Bridge.

Lampard is keen to avoid frequently measuring Pulisic against Hazard and highlighted some of the differences between the two box-office performers at his pre-match news conference for Tuesday's trip to Crystal Palace.

"Having played with Eden and seen him come to the club at a relatively young age, similar to Christian, we saw the development of him," said Chelsea's all-time leading goalscorer, who played alongside a young Hazard in 2012-13 and 2013-14.

"He had a special talent straight away of being able to receive a ball and have great balance and go past players so well. He would draw a lot of players towards him to open up space for others.

"He was pretty unselfish in how he would make assists."

Those scheming qualities were never greater than when they propelled Hazard to the PFA and Football Writers' Association Player of the Year awards in 2014-15, although Lampard feels Pulisic is a player who more immediately brings fans to the edge of their seats.

"I think Christian is possibly more direct in his style sometimes, in terms of how he goes past players and runs off the ball, which I like," he said.

"Eden would come and get the ball and take it past players a lot. With Christian, sometimes I think he has the ability to break the line and run forward, which is a really great trait in the modern game."

Pulisic's 20 appearances in his debut Premier League campaign have yielded seven goals and two assists – numbers that hint as much at potential as they do present-day star status, something Lampard acknowledges Hazard earned time and again.

"In terms of the comparison, which is why I stayed away from it a bit the other night, Eden has been here and done it and did it to an incredible level," he added.

"Christian has it in his hands to make a real impact over a long period of time.

"The thing I'm so happy with now is when we're playing teams and the games are tough and you're finding it hard to break teams down, he's taking responsibility to change that, to change it in moments by using his ability to turn quickly and go past people.

"It's been great to see and, as I keep saying, there's a lot of development to come for Christian. I'm very happy with him."

Eden Hazard will sit out Real Madrid's LaLiga match with Athletic Bilbao as he is not fully fit, head coach Zinedine Zidane said on Saturday. 

The Belgium international sustained a heavy knock in the 1-0 win over Espanyol and missed the victory against Getafe on Thursday. 

Madrid could stretch their lead over Barcelona at the top of LaLiga to seven points if they win at Athletic on Sunday before the Catalans face Villarreal, but Zidane is not prepared to take any unnecessary risks with Hazard that could jeopardise his chances of finishing the season. 

"Eden's having a hard time these days and we don't want to risk anything, and he's the first [to agree]," Zidane said. "Hopefully, it's a small thing and we can see him again before the end of the league [season]. 

"He's been away for three or four days and I hope he'll get over it quickly. It's day to day; we don't know anything more than it's a strong blow. There are those who know, the doctors and the medics... they are very competent people. It was a blow against Espanyol and it's a matter of days." 

Hazard's first season at Madrid since a €100million move from Chelsea has been blighted by injuries, with the 29-year-old having only started 13 league games in 2019-20. 

"The Hazard thing is the sort of thing we don't want to happen, that's the worst thing for me," Zidane said. "It's not just me, there's a lot of people here to help the player. 

"For Eden, it's his first year and he wants to help the team. And when he can't do that, he's not happy. 

"I don't think he's afraid [of injuries]; what he wants is to be good enough to play. If he doesn't look 100 per cent, it's a problem for him and for everyone, because we love him to the max. 

"What I hope is that we'll soon get out of it." 

Vinicius Junior lauded Eden Hazard and said it was easy to play alongside the attacker in Real Madrid's 2-0 LaLiga win over Real Mallorca.

A fine finish from Vinicius and Sergio Ramos' brilliant second-half free-kick saw Madrid climb back above rivals Barcelona and to the top of the LaLiga table.

Vinicius was happy with his performance and also talked up his combination with Hazard, with the pair starting together in Madrid.

"I am very happy with today's match. We have worked a lot at home to get to our best version," the forward said, via the club's website.

"As for me, I think I'm the same as before the break, but it's true that I worked a lot at home to be physically well.

"This is like a World Cup with few games and we have to be focused from the beginning. I always try to improve in all aspects. The coaching staff always helps me a lot to improve and I want to continue evolving at Real Madrid.

"Hazard is easy to play [with] because he is a great player and today was the first time that [Zinedine] Zidane has brought us together. It went very well."

Madrid extended their winning streak to four since returning from the coronavirus-enforced break, staying on track to win the LaLiga title.

Vinicius said it was important for the whole squad to be ready when called upon by head coach Zidane.

"We are all ready to enter the field when Zidane decides and we will do our best. We have the best players on the field," he said.

"We are going to do our best to win the remaining seven finals. We have won four and we are going for the league."

Madrid continue their campaign with a trip to Espanyol on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane has "no doubts" Eden Hazard and Vinicius Junior can feature in the same Real Madrid team.

Los Blancos' coach acknowledged the duo could be regarded as being in competition for a similar role, but is confident both can be accommodated.

Hazard was an unused substitute in Sunday's 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and it remains to be seen if he will play against Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Vinicius, meanwhile, impressed throughout the whole match and Zidane expects big things of the teenager.

On the subject of the Brazilian being in the same XI as Hazard, he said: "I don't see it as impossible, not that, but we try to make the player as comfortable as possible.

"His position is Eden's, but it doesn't mean anything. I like to put the players in their place, but in a match they can play together. I have no doubts about that.

"He [Vinicius] is 19 years old, he must learn many things safely, tactically, et cetera, but he's a boy who wants to work and that's what he's doing.

"He did great the other day, not just offensively. The good thing is that we have a very good player for the present and the future of Real Madrid."

Victory at the weekend put Real Madrid top of LaLiga, courtesy of a superior head-to-head record against Barcelona.

However, Zidane's side may soon be playing catch-up, with Barca in action on Tuesday against Athletic Bilbao at Camp Nou.

Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane said he was "delighted" for Karim Benzema after the star forward surpassed Ferenc Puskas on the club's all-time scorers list.

Benzema scored a brilliant brace to inspire a 3-0 LaLiga win over 10-man Valencia at Madrid Castilla's Alfredo Di Stefano stadium on Thursday.

After opening the scoring just past the hour-mark, Benzema completed the victory in stunning fashion with four minutes remaining – rifling a volley past Valencia goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen following Marco Asensio's 74th-mintue effort.

Benzema's two-goal display in the Spanish capital took his tally to 243 goals for Madrid across all competitions, leapfrogging club great Puskas (242) for fifth on the all-time list.

"It was a great goal, for the move and the finish – I'm delighted for Karim's goals," Zidane said after Madrid moved back within two points of leaders and rivals Barcelona.

It was a memorable outing for Asensio, who marked his long-awaited return by scoring with his first touch against Valencia.

Asensio sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last July and returned to the pitch as a 74th-minute substitute on Thursday – the Spaniard's impact immediate.

"This means a lot for him. We're happy to see him back on the pitch," Zidane said. "After so many months out, to come back and score a great goal in his first involvement makes me really happy.

"He was already happy just to get out on to the pitch and then he was able to score straight away, which shows he is already involved."

Eden Hazard also impressed for Madrid – the Belgium star combining with Luka Modric to tee up Benzema for the opening goal in Madrid.

Injury and fitness have hampered Hazard's maiden Madrid campaign, but the former Chelsea attacker showed glimpses of why Los Blancos invested so heavily in the 29-year-old.

"This was a really good game from Hazard," Zidane added. "Physically, he was good and played 80 minutes. Sometimes you might think he's starting to look tired, but then he picks up the ball and sprints away."

Madrid remain within touching distance of Barca with nine matches remaining in the coronavirus-impacted 2019-20 LaLiga season.

On the title race, Zidane said: "We know that it will be like this until the end, but today we can be happy because of what we've done in the game.

"They are the ones fighting; we have to enjoy and congratulate the players because it was a complete game and then think about the next game against Real Sociedad."

Barca will face third-placed Sevilla on Friday and Zidane added: "We depend on what we are going to do, knowing the situation. I'll watch the game, but I don't have the idea in my head that Barcelona will slip up; we have to think about ourselves."

Zinedine Zidane was happy to see Eden Hazard impress as Real Madrid made a winning return in LaLiga, saying the Belgium star was even glad to have endured some robust challenges.

Hazard started the match at the Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium on Sunday as Madrid won 3-1 against Eibar to move back to within two points of league leaders Barcelona.

Injury problems have blighted Hazard's first season at the club since his €100million move from Chelsea and there were concerns his campaign was over when he fractured his ankle in February.

The coronavirus-enforced break gave the forward more time to recover and he looked sharp in the first half against Eibar, setting up Sergio Ramos for the second goal and playing a key role in Marcelo's third.

Hazard was on the receiving end of some strong challenges and was substituted after 61 minutes, but head coach Zidane had few concerns.

"We knew Eden would lack a bit of rhythm to play the whole game. In the end, he played an hour and played well, too," he said.

"They gave him a good knock, a scare, but that's football. He said he was fine at the break, that he was glad he had been hit, and wasn't afraid. He's happy with what he did and we're happy, also."

Toni Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute as Madrid dominated the first half, but their standards slipped after the break and Eibar threatened to make life difficult after Pedro Bigas deflected in a shot from Pablo De Blasis.

"It's a completely different thing to what we were experiencing before. We have to adapt," said Zidane.

"We started the game well, but it was difficult in the second half. I don't think it was physical, because we are well prepared. It was a bit of everything.

"I'll take the first half – that was dominant. It's an important win.

"Maybe we relaxed in the second. There was no one thing in particular. We had to make the changes: [Dani] Carvajal sprained his ankle, Ramos had discomfort too, Hazard because he hadn't played for a long time... I don't think it was the changes that made the game change."

Karim Benzema looked particularly sharp and combined well with Hazard in the first half, leading to a question as to whether the forward has followed a particular diet to come back in such lean shape.

"I don't know his diet, but Karim takes great care of himself, like most players," said Zidane. "He's happy to play again. I hope he keeps it up – we need him.

"It's wonderful to see them communicate and I have to talk mostly about the second goal, which came from a pass from Eden to Ramos."

Real Madrid made a winning return to LaLiga action as they beat Eibar 3-1 in the Spanish capital on Sunday.

Toni Kroos, Sergio Ramos and Marcelo eased Madrid into a comfortable half-time lead, with the visitors' second-half improvement yielding nothing but a Pedro Bigas consolation.

With Barcelona having won 4-0 at Real Mallorca a day earlier, the pressure was on Los Blancos to follow suit and close the gap at the top of the table back to two points.

Madrid's home games are being held at the Castilla's Alfredo Di Stefano Stadium while the Santiago Bernabeu undergoes renovation work, but the change in venue made little difference as the home side marked Zinedine Zidane's 200th game in charge in winning fashion.

Kroos broke the deadlock in the fourth minute with a sublime first-time strike from just inside the box that looped beyond goalkeeper Marko Dmitrovic.

Eibar responded well but were 2-0 down after half an hour. Ramos stepped out to intercept a pass and spark a swift counter-attacking move that ended with the Madrid captain tapping in an unselfish square ball from the impressive Eden Hazard, who was back in the line-up for the first time since February after recovering from an ankle fracture.

A crisp strike from Marcelo into the bottom-right corner after more good interplay between Hazard and Karim Benzema made it 3-0 before the break, the Brazil left-back taking a knee after drilling home his first league goal of the season.

Thibaut Courtois saved superbly from Edu Exposito and Sergi Enrich hit the bar with a header, before Pablo De Blasis' shot deflected off Bigas and bobbled beyond Courtois to give Eibar a lifeline.

It was a largely pedestrian second half from Madrid, with Hazard and Ramos taken off and Marcelo struggling with a knock, but Eibar could not mount a comeback.

 

What does it mean? Title race shows few signs of fizzling out

Resounding wins apiece for Barca and Madrid mean the gap at the top is only two points with 10 games to go and neither side is looking especially rusty after the long break.

This was certainly a display to show Zidane's men will not give up the chase without a fight and will also serve as a useful reminder to Manchester City before the Champions League last-16 returns.

Eibar are just two points above the bottom three, having won just once in eight league matches.

Hazard and Benzema in harmony

Injury has ruined much of Hazard's first season in LaLiga, but this display was a sign that he plans to make the most of the coming few weeks.

His link play with Benzema was excellent, particularly in the first half, and should have given Zidane plenty of encouragement.

Who is left for the right?

Rodrygo started the match, Gareth Bale and Vinicius Junior came on, Isco, James Rodriguez and Marco Asensio stayed on the bench, and we are still unclear who is Madrid's best option on the right wing.

That kind of depth will prove useful in the hectic schedule to come but settling on a first-choice front three would help bring balance to a Madrid attack that has often struggled this season.

What's next?

Madrid host Valencia on Thursday before heading to Real Sociedad three days later. For Eibar, a home match against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday awaits.

Page 3 of 7
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.