Julen Lopetegui not surprised by Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid resurgence

Sport360 staff 10:27 15/09/2018
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Karim Benzema

Julen Lopetegui is not surprised by Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid resurgence, claiming the Frenchman is “in his peak” after a fine start to the 2018/19 season.

The 30-year-old has scored four goals in his opening three La Liga games as well as bagging one in the 4-2 UEFA Super Cup defeat against city rivals Atletico, with the former Lyon man seemingly enjoying a share of the spotlight following Cristiano Ronaldo’s summer departure to Juventus.

The Frenchman had been regularly overshadowed by the exploits of Ronaldo since his arrival at the Bernabeu in 2009, finishing behind him in the goalscoring charts in each of the last nine seasons.

But Benzema has responded to the extra responsibility in style.

“I’m not surprised, he’s a great footballer who is in his peak and at a good age and conditions,” Lopetegui said of Benzema at his press conference ahead of the trip to Athletic Bilbao on Saturday.

“We want him to continue doing what he’s doing or even better. The players are the ones who play and overcome the difficulties we face.”

Benzema, who has bagged 131 La Liga goals in his career, scored twice in the 4-1 victory over Leganes before the international break and has now found the net against each of the 33 teams he has faced in Spain’s top flight.

He also has a good record against weekend opponents Bilbao, registering eight times.

Asked about rotating his team with the inaugural Champions League fixture of the season in midweek against Roma in mind, former Spain coach Lopetegui insisted he is fully focused on the match at San Mames.

“The Roma match is coming up, but we’re only thinking about Athletic,” he said.

“You have to go into games full of energy. We take into account the circumstances that we’re in, but we’re looking for the best way to win a very important game against Athletic.”

Hosts Bilbao are also unbeaten this season following their opening two matches, winning one and drawing the other.

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