Zidane: Benzema ‘makes the guys around him play’

Karim Benzema

Karim Benzema

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.”