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Champions League: Zidane Comes Out In Defence Of Benzema Ahead Of Napoli Tie

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Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane defended striker Karim Benzema in his Tuesday press conference ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League first leg tie at home to Napoli.

Benzema has been criticized by a section of the press and fans for some lackluster displays of late and with Spain international Alvaro Morata waiting in the wings, Zidane was forced to explain his preference for his fellow countryman.

“Everyone’s entitled to express their opinion, but what’s important is that every day I see him focused and working hard. I’m happy with his work,” he said.

“Karim helps other players to score. We want Karim to score, but the most important thing is the way he helps others to play better,” continued the coach.

The game comes too soon for Gareth Bale, who is putting the finishing touches to his recovery from an ankle injury.

“This is his first week back training with us – he’s in good shape, he’s recovered well, but he has had almost three months out and we have to take it slowly,” said Zidane, who then looked ahead to Wednesday’s game.

“It’s very important and it’s going to be tough, but we’re happy to be playing the Champions League again,” he said, highlighting the need not to concede against the Italians, who are unbeaten in their last 18 matches.

“You know that when you play your home leg the most important thing is to keep a clean sheet.”

“I want us to be focused in the way we go about things. We know it’s 50/50; we have the first game at home tomorrow and we know that we can hurt the other team and that they can cause us problems too. We’re ready; that’s the most important thing,” he said, before issuing a warning that the defending Champions can take nothing for granted.

“Real Madrid will always be among the favorites. But the club badge doesn’t guarantee anything. You have to fight hard; it’s a long, hard competition,” he concluded.

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