Zinedine Zidane insists “I’ll defend Karim Benzema to death” after describing the much-maligned Real Madrid striker as “one of the best”.
Benzema has come under scrutiny for his performances this season, which have yielded just five goals in all competitions, but Zidane reiterated his support for his fellow Frenchman ahead of the Club World Cup Final.
“We’re excited about possibly taking home another trophy,” he said at a Press conference for Saturday’s clash with Brazilian side Gremio.
“We’re here for that. We’ve been in this country for a week, preparing for this Final, and it’s what we’re hoping for.
“The Final is 50-50, it’s one match and I don’t think there’s any favourites. History doesn’t mean anything in a Final.
“The most important thing is Saturday and making history against a good team. Al Jazira? I don’t think we played badly.
“We had chances, but it was strange not to have scored in 45 minutes. We’ve talked about it and we know what we need to do better in.
“Ultimately, we need to be better with our finishing because we’ll face much better and more complicated opponents.
“Gremio? They’re a technical and physical team, who play on the counter. We’ll prepare for it as best we can and be attentive. We’re convinced about doing better in this regard.
“We’re here because we won the Champions League. Now we have to think about winning the Final.
“We need to play well, but we’re growing. Benzema? I don’t agree with the criticism, but it’s nothing.
“What interests me is not just goals. Karim’s a different player. He’s not going to score 50 goals, but he does other things.
“I like what he does for the team. This is a team game and Karim is one of the best. I’ll defend him to death.
“There are players who may not be playing well, but I’ll defend them and this isn’t the case with Benzema.
“Bale? I’m very happy for him and the team. I see him training regularly and that’s the most important thing. I see him well and happy with his teammates.”