Solari hails ‘selfless’ Benzema one of the game’s top strikers

Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari believes Karim Benzema is currently one of the world’s leading strikers and someone who makes the players around him better.

Benzema notched his 13th goal of the season in all competitions in Thursday night’s Copa del Rey win against Girona.

The France international has continued to be a standout performer for the European champions despite nursing a hand injury sustained in the recent win at Real Betis.

“Benzema has been around a long time and has had a lot of highs throughout his career,” Solari told a press conference before Sunday’s LaLiga game at Espanyol.

“He’s in great form and is having a brilliant season. The way he understands the game and the effort he puts in make him a very generous player.

“He improves those around him. He’s played most of the games this season and he’s also showing himself to be selfless now that he’s playing with a fractured phalanx.

“I believe that he’s one of the best strikers around right now.”

Karim Benzema has shrugged off a hand injury to play in Real Madrid's last two matches
Karim Benzema has shrugged off a hand injury to play in Real Madrid’s last two matches (Peter Byrne/PA)

Solari’s side turned in one of their best displays of the season last weekend when beating high-flying Sevilla 2-0 at the Bernabeu, and followed up by taking a 4-2 advantage over Girona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarter-final.

The club are chasing a third straight league win since losing at home to Real Sociedad earlier this month, but are 10 points behind leaders Barcelona.

“Right from the off, we’ll need to perform just as we have done in our last two games, with the utmost focus and concentration to keep our performance levels up,” Solari added.

“We need the players to maintain the intensity and energy levels that they’ve shown in our last two games.”

Solari will be boosted by the return to contention of Gareth Bale, sidelined since early January due to a calf injury, and Marco Asensio, who has missed the last four league games with a thigh problem.

Espanyol have slipped to 13th in the table after losing eight of their last nine league games, but boss Rubi is convinced his side will recapture their early-season form and turn their fortunes round.

“I’m very much optimistic because I know that we will finish the season as we started, with many points,” he told a press conference. “We are not discouraged, nor do we have doubts.

“It will be very difficult against Real, to win you have to play a perfect match.

“But I’m thinking about this game, thinking that if you take it forward, the momentum it generates is very great.”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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