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In-form Benzema has Madrid on ‘right track’ for title charge


Madrid (AFP) – Real Madrid’s top scorer this season Karim Benzema said the La Liga champions are “on the right track” ahead of potentially returning to the top of table with a win at Eibar on Sunday.

Madrid, who last led the league last season, trail leaders Atletico Madrid and second-placed Real Sociedad on goal difference after a Benzema double in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over Athletic Bilbao took his tally up to 10 across all competitions for the campaign.

Coach Zinedine Zidane had been under pressure following a run of three games without a win in November with Spanish press linking former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and ex-Madrid forward Raul forward to the Frenchman’s job.

“We are on the right track. We work together, we score goals, we don’t concede,” Benzema told the club’s television channel.

“We have to continue game by game. They are all finals and three points,” the 32-year-old added.

Zidane hailed Benzema, who last played for France in 2015, as the best centre-forward in their country’s history after his midweek performance.

The World Cup winner praised Benzema’s selfless efforts with the forward supplying three assists this term.

“That’s why I like him so much, I love him, he’s not only thinking about goals,” he said.

“He gets involved in the game, if he needs to pass to a teammate he’ll do it.”

Before Madrid’s trip to the Basque Country late on Sunday, Atletico host 14th placed Elche on Saturday for their first league fixture since last weekend’s capital city derby loss to Zidane’s men.

Forward Diego Costa returned to training this week after recovering from thrombosis but is unlikely to feature for Diego Simeone’s side before the end of the calendar year.

Later on Saturday, early runaway leaders Real Sociedad head to Levante but have drawn their previous six fixtures in all competitions and will be without Belgium playmaker Adnan Januzaj due to a muscle problem.

Fifth-placed Barcelona welcome Valencia after defender Jordi Alba described Wednesday’s win over Real as their “best game of the season”.

It allowed the Catalans to move six points off the leaders ahead of this weekend.

Player to watch: Mikel Oyarzabal

Sociedad’s captain has been sidelined with a muscle problem since December 3’s Europa League draw with Rijeka but could come back for the trip to Ciutat de Valencia.

The Spain attacker had scored seven goals and created three more, and the Basques failed to win and dropped down to second in his absence.

Fixtures (times GMT)

Friday

Athletic Bilbao v Huesca (2000)

Saturday

Atletico Madrid v Elche (1300), Barcelona v Valencia (1515), Levante v Real Sociedad, Osasuna v Villarreal (both 1730), Sevilla v Real Valladolid (2000)

Sunday

Celta Vigo v Alaves (1300), Granada v Real Betis (1515), Cadiz v Getafe (1730), Eibar v Real Madrid (2000)

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