Carlo Ancelotti claims star man is back as Real Madrid increase gap at top

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti heaped praise on Eden Hazard as his side won 2-1 away at Athletic Bilbao in La Liga.

Los Blancos came into the match with 11 players missing through Covid-19 and injury-related issues. Nevertheless, a strong performance increased their gap over second-placed Sevilla to eight points, albeit having played a match more. And Ancelotti was impressed with Hazard’s performance throughout the game, as he started for the second time in four days.

Ancelotti told the club’s media in his post-match interview: “Hazard is important for the team. It’s true that on an individual level he played better in this game, at a time when I wasn’t sure about him physically. But he did well.

“He battled, he tried things up top. He’s back, yes. He’s back”.

In the COVID-19 enforced absences of Rodrygo, Gareth Bale and Marco Asensio, Hazard worked hard for the team.

It was from his slightly deflected pass that Karim Benzema scored his second goal in seven minutes to secure victory over Athletic Bilbao.

The boss went on to applaud the rest of his squad for how they performed, despite missing multiple key figures.

“This is a huge win for us because I think we delivered a complete performance with a team which hasn’t been used to so much game time recently.

“I really have to underline the efforts of Nacho, Lucas Vázquez, Camavinga, Valverde, Hazard. They haven’t been playing too much but turned up today and put a superb shift in.

“It was a high-quality game for the vast majority and they showed great commitment. That’s the most important thing for me, almost as much as the 3 points, which is ultimately what counts”.

Frank Lampard and Diego Martinez head potential replacements for Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa

Benzema nears 300 Real Madrid goals

After a fine brace on Wednesday night in the 2-1 win against Athletic Club in Bilbao, Benzema was applauded off the pitch by the opposition’s supporters.

The French striker moved to 299 goals in a Madrid shirt.

He said post-match: “We put on a good display against tough opposition. We conceded but we scored two and we take all three points.

“We had to dig in, but that’s what the best teams can do. It was a great goal but the most important thing is how it gave us the confidence to go after the second.

“I like this kind of football. A great stadium like this one makes me very happy. I’m proud of today’s win because Athletic are a very tough side and it’s great to pick up a win here.

“I am going to try and keep going and scoring more goals. I’m very proud of my numbers and I’m closing in on my 300th goal for the club. It’s been a strong end to the year. We have to rest up now because we’ve still got lots of work to do”.

READ MORE: Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti demands quality as squad hit with virus