Karim Benzema 'doesn't mind' Real Madrid targeting a striker in the summer

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Karim Benzema

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema admitted that he doesn’t mind if Los Blancos sign a striker this summer to ensure that there’s some competition for the number nine role.

The Frenchman has been in fine form for Madrid under Zidane, scoring each of the club’s last eight goals.

Benzema maintained that he will be focused on working hard and staying at Madrid as long as possible.

“It’s up to the club, I don’t mind,” Benzema responded when asked about whether Madrid should sign a No.9, Marca reports.

“I’m just focussed on my job on the pitch and how I can help the team.”

The Frenchman is confident of keeping his place in the team despite speculation of big arrivals, with a deal for Frankfurt hotshot Luka Jovic rumoured to be close.

“I’m going to stay at Madrid,” he added. “I’m at the best club in the world.”

Benzema also spoke about how Zinedine Zidane’s return has created a sense of positivity in the Madrid camp.

“Zidane’s return to the club means so much,” he added. “Everyone is so happy with him and we are looking forward to next season.”

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Real Madrid defender Marcelo admits it's complicated when there's nothing to play for

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Marcelo.

Skipper Marcelo admitted Real Madrid have been “really, really damaged” by a disappointing season after Karim Benzema’s hat-trick secured a 3-0 La Liga victory over Athletic Bilbao.

Real occupy third place in the table with five games remaining, a distant 13 points behind champions elect Barcelona and with their Champions League dreams ended in the last 16 by Ajax.

Asked about a lacklustre first-half display against Athletic, Marcelo told LaLiga TV: “It’s complicated at the end of the season when you’re not playing for anything.

“We had to find the motivation but we came here in front of the fans and yes, the first half was difficult. In the second half, it wasn’t quite as difficult for us, but I think we played well.

“It’s not a question of whether the season is over or not, we have to always work when we pull this jersey on. We know it’s been a difficult season – we’re really, really damaged by what’s happened this season, but we have to keep going forward.

“All the players who play for Real Madrid, all the players who don’t play, we all have to do everything for the badge of Real Madrid.”

If Zinedine Zidane’s men were distinctly unimpressive before the break, Benzema ensured they emerged with the points with a devastating display of finishing after it as he took his tally for the season to 30 goals in all competitions.

He headed them in front from Marco Asensio’s inviting 47th-minute cross and doubled his tally from Luka Modric’s corner with 14 minutes remaining before completing his treble in stoppage time with Bilbao keeper Iago Herrerin in no man’s land.

Marcelo said: “We all know that Karim has got so much quality. What he brings to the club, scoring goals or not, he’s one of the leaders of this team and the truth is I’m very happy for him to score the hat-trick.

“But he’ll be happier with the win than with the hat-trick.”

Athletic gave as good as they got before the break without troubling Real keeper Keylor Navas unduly but were ultimately able to keep Benzema at bay.

Skipper Iker Muniain said: “In the first half it was very equal, We had the odd chance that we weren’t able to finish off, and then in the second half we were close to scoring, but we didn’t score and they hit us on the break.

“They went 1-0 up too quickly and that meant we were always playing from behind. We were really determined to get a result from this game but we failed.

“We knew they weren’t playing for anything but we also know the quality they’ve got, the players they’ve got. Any of these players can score and make the difference in a game.

“Maybe if things had worked out differently before that first goal, it would have been a different game.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Real Madrid talking points as Karim Benzema profits and Jesus Vallejo shines versus Athletic Bilbao

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Karim Benzema plundered just a second La Liga hat-trick in his decade at Real Madrid to earn an ultimately convincing 3-0 triumph against Athletic Bilbao.

After a bitty first half that was littered by fouls rather than chances, the rejuvenated French striker burst into life. On 47 minutes, a tremendous interception from reserve centre-back Jesus Vallejo fuelled a counter-attack from which an unmarked Benzema nodded home forward Marco Asensio’s inch-perfect cross.

The lead was doubled on 76 minutes when Ballon d’Or holder Luka Modric swung in a deep corner from which Benzema struck an 11th headed goal of the season. The most convincing win of Zinedine Zidane’s return to the Los Blancos dugout was completed during injury time when substitute Gareth Bale forced a rushed clearance from AWOL goalkeeper Iago Herrerin – who was also culpable for the second – and Benzema classily lobbed home from 25 yards into an unguarded goal.

This result kept third-placed Madrid four points behind city rivals Atletico, while hampering Bilbao’s push for Europa League qualification. Here are the talking points from Santiago Bernabeu:

BENZEMA IS HEAD BOY

Madrid knew by early October that this was not going to be a vintage campaign.

From these ashes, however, a maligned figure is now on course to experience the greatest campaign of his decade in royal white.

Benzema was unplayable in Sunday’s devastating second half. Expert movement stretched a lead as the player with the most headed goals in Europe’s top-five leagues, while his renewed confidence was displayed by a deft chip to make it eight goals in six fixtures – of which four have been victories – since countryman Zidane’s welcome return to the sidelines last month.

The centre forward now sits on a commendable 30 strikes in 50 run-outs this term. Only 2011/12’s record-breaking run to the La Liga crown earned better figures – 32 goals in 52 matches.

A move away from inverted wingers has helped, meaning the ex-Lyon star has often been the beneficiary of more traditional crossing. Whether this remains after the return of Brazilian flyer Vinicius Junior from injury and expected summer arrival of Chelsea maestro Eden Hazard will be interesting to see.

The iconic Cristiano Ronaldo’s vacation of centre stage has, undoubtedly, hurt Madrid in a trophyless 2018/19. Yet Benzema has gone from a figure of derision to a key pillar of a – hopefully – brighter future.

VALLEJO TAKES HIS CHANCE

Madrid supporters could be forgiven for forgetting Vallejo existed.

A combination of draining injury, intense competition for places and the sense of unfulfilled potential meant there was a sense of surprise when just a third start of 2018/19 – and a first La Liga still in almost a year – was awarded to the 22-year-old centre-back.

The message – oft repeated – from Zidane is that these final, meandering months of a trying campaign are not meaningless. This statement was heeded by Vallejo on Sunday afternoon.

Few defenders can go step to step with the jet-heeled Inaki Williams. Well, his former Spain Under-21 team-mate managed to do just this in the build-up to Benzema’s breakthrough.

His sliding interception of Inigo Cordoba’s centre both denied Williams a tap-in and sparked the rapier counter that ended with the hosts going ahead.

A blanket was cast over the in-form Basque throughout, who came with five goals and one assists from his last five fixtures. He produced no attempts on goal, a 44-per-cent pass accuracy and two dribbles at the Bernabeu.

Vallejo led the way with three interceptions. A pass accuracy of 90.2 per cent was the third best of any Madrid starter.

With skipper Sergio Ramos not likely to be rushed back from a calf injury, further chances may follow in the coming weeks. Could a place on the 2019/20 roster still be secured – even with Brazil’s Eder Militao on the way – by the patient defender?

BILBAO’S TRAVELLING BLUES

Gaizka Garitano’s troops looked to have performed a textbook Bilbao spoiling job in a disjointed first half.

This hard work, however, would come undone in regretful circumstance. Shot stopper Herrerin’s positioning was amateurish for goals two and three, while the visiting centre-backs lost concentration to gift Benzema the critical opener.

This followed a first half of nine fouls to Madrid’s 11, plus precious few opportunities.

Garitano will not be judged on days like this. His points per match is more than doubled predecessor Eduardo Berizzo’s (1.95/0.93) and the 43-year-old has turned a relegation battle into a push for the Europa League.

Where this charge has come unstuck, however, is on the road. Bilbao have lost four of their last six away from San Mames, which doesn’t help their Europa League hunt – three points behind sixth-placed Valencia.

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