Benzema earns Mourinho praise
Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho lauded Karim Benzema as doing "better than ever" after seeing the Frenchman continue his rich vein of goalscoring form against Hercules. Benzema struck both goals in the 2-0 win at the Bernabeu to help Madrid provisionally move to within four points of La Liga pacesetters Barcelona, who play Sevilla this evening.
It was the third successive match in which Benzema has scored a brace and he has now struck eight times in his last six appearances, which is comfortably his best spell of form since he joined Madrid.
The 23-year-old has come under the spotlight after struggling to justify the £30m Madrid paid Lyon for his services in the summer of 2009, but the France international now looks to finally be proving his worth. Mourinho said of Benzema, who now has 19 goals in all competitions this season: "Benzema is better than ever. He is doing things he's never done before.
"Benzema is happy and we are happy with him. It's very good to have Karim in these games in which our main goalscorers, (Cristiano) Ronaldo and (Gonzalo) Higuain, are out because recently he has scored four goals and got us six important points. I like it to be difficult for me to choose a player when they're all playing at such a high level."
Benzema is now hoping to continue his scoring streak against his former club Lyon on Wednesday in the second leg of their UEFA Champions League last-16 tie - a match Ronaldo should be fit to return for. Madrid, who have been knocked out at this stage in each of the last six seasons, drew the first leg in France 1-1 with Benzema getting the goal.
"Thanks to Mourinho I want to score and I want to run more. I feel much better than before," said Benzema. "I want to score against Lyon. It will be a difficult game, we are 90 minutes away from the quarter-finals of the Champions League and I'm convinced we will defeat Lyon."
Benzema also insists his side's title challenge is still on, adding on his club's website: "Hopefully Barca can lose (against Sevilla). We are four points behind them and let's see if they slip up and we stay within this distance because we are working hard to win every game. The championship isn't over."