Karim Benzema skippered Madrid in the absence of Sergio Ramos. The Frenchman is in serious form, scoring a late double last weekend against Elche at Valdebebas and notching another brace this afternoon. Both Barcelona and Atletico play tomorrow evening, so Zinedine Zidane’s men have managed to apply a good deal of pressure on both of their title rivals with this win.
They started well, pinning their hosts back and opening the scoring in the 20th minute through Benzema, who scored in his sixth consecutive game to fire his team into the lead. He doubled it less than ten minutes later, seizing on a defensive error and making Celta pay.
Celta pulled one back five minutes before half-time, Santi Mina steering home a header after Denis Suarez teed him up with a set-piece. It was to ultimately be in vain, however, with Madrid bouncing back to put the icing on the cake in the 94th minute, right at the death. Benzema was pivotal again, setting up Marco Asensio to score after coming on for Toni Kroos.
Zidane, speaking post-match in comments carried by Marca, rejected suggestions that he’s over-reliant on Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, who are starting every game at the moment. “We know the calendar,” he said. “We know there are many games. But the players are fine. It’s true that both these players are leaving [with their national teams] and that’s not ideal, but for now we have to enjoy this victory.
The Frenchman was asked if his team are in the best moment of their season. “We have to continue, they’ve played a lot of good games lately. We’re in that final stage were everything is played. We’re physically well, we’re in a great moment. We suffered a little in the second half, but we interpreted the game well.”
Zidane, a former World Cup and European Championship winner with the French national team, was also vocal about Benzema’s continued exclusion from the France setup. “How are we going to understand that Benzema doesn’t go to play for the national team?” He asked. “Not many people understand it. But I’m happy as Madrid coach. He’s done a great job for the team.”