Zidane calls on Real Madrid fans to back misfiring ace

Michael Graham

Zinedine Zidane has called on Real Madrid fans to back Karim Benzema after the France international drew the ire of the Bernabeu crowd.

Benzema, 30, who has been sidelined with a thigh injury, made his first appearance in one month for Madrid as a second-half substitute during their 7-1 victory against Deportivo last weekend.

But the forward was subjected to a negative reception from some sections of fans, seemingly frustrated at his return of just two goals from 13 La Liga appearances this season.

“It’s not pleasant to go out on to the pitch and to be whistled,” Zidane, speaking ahead of his side’s second-leg Copa del Rey clash against Leganes, said. “We need our fans to be with us.

“I know that you have the right to comment on everything because you paid for the ticket, but we really want our supporters to be with us during the 90 minutes and when the game ends, whatever happens, happens.

“Karim will be with us tomorrow. He’d not played with us for a month and I wanted him to play and be with the group again. The only thing he enjoys is playing and being out on the pitch.”

Madrid are a distant fourth following an underwhelming La Liga campaign, but will turn their attentions to the Copa del Rey on Wednesday as they look to seal their place in the semi-finals.

Zidane’s side hold a slender 1-0 advantage after Marco Asensio netted with one minute remaining of the opening leg at the Estadio Municipal de Butarque last week.

“We must go out thinking that the tie is not over,” Zidane added. “That’s the most important thing.

“We’re playing against a team that never gives up and works until the end. It’s a cup game and we must do the same as in the first leg, score and keep a clean sheet.

“Leganes were losing 2-0 in their last league match and drew. They deserve credit for that. They are really motivated and it’s the cup. By scoring one goal, anything can happen.”

Gareth Bale, who has scored five times in his last four appearances, is likely to feature, while Cristiano Ronaldo trained on Tuesday despite the bloody facial injury he sustained against Deportivo.

The former Manchester United forward was caught in the face as he scored a header, and left the field checking out the extent of his injury using the club physio’s smartphone.

“Cristiano took the phone to see if the wound was large or small and to see if he could continue,” Zidane said. “It was an uncomfortable and big wound.

“They stitched it up and he’s back today. If Cristiano trained with us with a swollen eye, it says that the most important thing for him is that he’s out on the field.”