Solari praises ‘generous’ Benzema for playing through pain

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Real Madrid coach Santiago Solari has praised Karim Benzema’s excellent run of form, particularly as the striker is playing through the pain of a broken finger.

Benzema sustained the injury during Madrid’s win over Real Betis earlier this month and the decision was taken to skip surgery so the Frenchman could avoid missing matches.

His availability has been a major boost to the team, with Benzema arguably Real’s player of the season so far. The 31-year-old has stepped up following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, who left last summer for Juventus.

“Karim has had a long career with many peaks but he is in a great moment,” Solari said at a press conference on Saturday.

“He is having a great season and he’s a very generous player in the way he understands football. He makes the players around him better.

“Also he is particularly generous at the moment because he is playing with a fracture in his finger and he is playing with pain. He is a team player in every sense of the word.”

Madrid face Espanyol in La Liga on Sunday as they look to close a 10-point gap on leaders Barcelona and maintain their mini-revival, which has seen them win four out of their last five matches.

Gareth Bale trained with the squad on Saturday and could feature this weekend, although next week’s Copa del Rey second leg against Girona might offer a smoother return for the Welshman, who has shaken off a calf injury.

Bale’s availability will create a selection dilemma for Solari, given how well Vinicius Junior has played alongside Benzema up front.

Asked if Bale’s place is guaranteed, Solari said: “Gareth is very important to us because he is a fantastic footballer. We’ll see who plays tomorrow and we’ll see who plays next week.”

It means Isco’s chances of regaining his place in the side will not get any easier, particularly with Marco Asensio also due back from injury soon. Isco helped Madrid beat Girona 4-2 on Thursday after coming off the bench with the score level at 2-2.

“A game like that is won by all members of the squad, those who start the game, those who come on, and everyone who trains each day,” Solari said.

Goalkeeper Keylor Navas and defender Jesus Vallejo are now Madrid’s only injured players. Navas has a torn adductor while Vallejo is recovering from a hamstring strain.

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