Superstars such as the irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo and skipper Sergio Ramos were rested ahead of Tuesday’s quarter-final opener in the Champions League at Juventus. But this didn’t stop Los Blancos upon the resumption of club play after the international break.
Bale charged the length of the half to convert Croatia midfielder Luka Modric’s sublime pass for the first on 26 minutes. Penalties were then exchanged by Benzema and the Welshman either side of half-time.
The victory saw Madrid close on second-placed Atletico, while Las Palmas are now seven points away from safety.
BALE’S A BOLTER
The Wales forward’s sense of timing throughout his career has always been exemplary – and this was another example.
A repeat of the 2016/17 Champions League final looms large for Los Blancos. Bale emphatically pressed his case for inclusion.
His top speed of 31.5 kilometres per hour for the opener evidenced more than 20 injuries in five seasons at Madrid have not been ruinous.
Such threat on the counter-attack will be key at Allianz Stadium. Especially when Juve showed such susceptibility to it in the previous round against Tottenham.
He was then calmness personified from the penalty spot to make it 13 goals in 30 matches in 2017/18.
Bale did not start either leg in the round of 16 versus Paris Saint-Germain, or December’s El Clasico humiliation versus Barcelona. This run of missing the big occasions could yet end in midweek.
8 - Only vs Almería in 2013 (10) Gareth Bale completed more shots than vs Las Palmas (eight) away from home in La Liga. Express pic.twitter.com/uWirPWOTqM— OptaJose (@OptaJose) March 31, 2018
BENZEMA’S LAST HURRAH
Respect has to be shown when it is due.
It takes a special talent and remarkable longevity to register 400 appearances during nine years at centre forward for Madrid. Commendations and the receiving of the armband for Benzema – in Ronaldo’s absence, of course – at Eastadio Gran Canaria were richly deserved.
For context, Hungary’s Ferenc Puskas only made 262 run-outs in royal white from 1958-66. Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez played 282 times from 1985-92.
Only six men – including the two above – have scored more times for Madrid than Benzema’s 189. Ronaldo – the version from Brazil – scored 104 times from 177 matches from 2002-07.
But Benzema is not maligned for past achievement. It is the unacceptable present.
A fifth goal in 24 La Liga games in 2017/18 came from the penalty spot. Damning lack of conviction saw him spurn a two-on-one against Las Palmas goalkeeper Leandro Chichizola with a woeful pass to Bale.
The clock continues to tick on his Madrid reign.
ZIDANE SHOULD BE A HAPPY MAN
As warm-ups go, this was a painless one for Los Blancos supremo Zinedine Zidane.
Ahead of a return to Juve, the club where his legend was created as a player, rests were afforded to Ronaldo, indomitable captain Ramos and Germany metronome Toni Kroos – among others.
Centre-back Raphael Varane was retained. He made a leading seven interceptions to ease worries about his culpability in last week 3-2 loss for France against Colombia.
Their La Liga crown is long gone, but signs remain positive that an unprecedented third-successive Champions League triumph – and 13th overall – could yet be harvested from an undulating 2017/18.
Victory in Las Palmas represented a fifth in a row from all competitions. The resurgence continues.
The playmaker was in sensational form for his country, scoring three times in the 6-1 victory over Argentina on Tuesday night. The 25-year-old then told media after the friendly that his superb performance was down to Julen Lopetegui’s confidence in him.
Isco has seen his club football limited under Zidane this season but the 45-year-old says the Spaniard is an integral member of his squad.
“He’s a Real Madrid player and he’s going to stay here. He’s a player I like,” he said of the player who along with Sergio Ramos will miss Saturday’s La Liga game against Las Palmas due to minor injuries. “I saw it (the hat-trick and I was very happy about it.
“I’m not unfair on him. And he’s happy. Maybe he hasn’t been enjoying as central a role here [as he has with Spain], but I’ve always made it clear to him that he’s important.”
Los Blancos will be strong favourites to register their fourth league win on the trot against a lowly Las Palmas side who are winless in their last five matches.
And with the first-leg Champions League quarter-final against Juventus looming on Tuesday, Zidane insists the game is crucial for their preparations.
“It’s an important game for us, even if Tuesday [when Real face Juventus in the Champions League] is also on our minds,” he said. “To prepare well for the game in Turin, we have to do well tomorrow.
“We’ll go there aiming to put in a good display and whoever we take will need to be on their game.”
But Real’s coach admitted his future will depend on results, with his team sitting third in La Liga, 15 points adrift of Barcelona, and relying on the Champions League for a major trophy this term.
Zidane had previously stayed guarded over his desire to remain at the club but appears now to have declared his hand. Real travel to Las Palmas in the league on Saturday.
“Yes, I would still like to stay as coach of Real Madrid,” Zidane said. “Here we depend on the results, it has not changed, it will not change, it is the requirement of this club and I accept it.
“I’ve been here 18 years, I know how Real Madrid functions,” said Zidane, who arrived at the club in the summer of 2001.
“I do what I like doing, I do it thoroughly and if the question is, do you want to continue? Then yes I will continue. I do not feel tired, not at all.”
Despite winning the Champions League in each of his two seasons in charge at Real, as well as the La Liga title last year, Zidane has come under pressure in recent months.
Real’s limp defence of their domestic crown, a shock exit to Leganes in the Copa del Rey, and their poor start in Europe, where they finished second in the group behind Tottenham, combined to put Zidane’s position in doubt.
But the mood has changed since Real beat Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League this month and victory over Juventus would only enhance Zidane’s cause further.
His team play Juve on Tuesday in the first leg of the quarter-finals in Turin.
First, however, Real face a trip to Gran Canaria and Las Palmas, hoping to close the gap on second-placed Atletico Madrid to one point before Atletico play Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.
“We hope to take second place, little by little,” Zidane said. “Of course we have our minds on Tuesday but tomorrow we have a match and to execute on Tuesday, we have to execute well tomorrow.”