Real Madrid Win 34th La Liga Title

Real Madrid’s players celebrate winning La Liga title after the Spanish League football match between against Villarreal CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on July 16, 2020. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid were crowned La Liga champions for the 34th time on Thursday after Karim Benzema scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Villarreal which clinched the title with one game to spare.

Benzema’s double included a second-half penalty at the empty Alfredo di Stefano Stadium as Madrid moved seven points clear to end Barcelona’s two-year hold on the trophy.

Barca had to prevail against Osasuna at home and hope Madrid slipped up but their fading challenge ended with a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou, despite a brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick.

It means Madrid claim their third La Liga title in 12 years, after a relentless run of form since Spanish football resumed on June 11 following the coronavirus pandemic.

Zinedine Zidane’s side have won 10 games out 10 since the restart. They have conceded four goals in that time and never been behind in a match.

“For me, this is one of the best days in my professional career,” said Zidane. “After lockdown and everything, it’s astonishing.”

Asked if it trumps the Champions League titles Madrid won in his first spell as manager, Zidane said: “This is better than anything. It takes a tremendous effort to win La Liga. After 38 matches, you have more points than anyone else. It’s bloody fantastic.”

Madrid have also been awarded five penalties during the run-in, some of them controversially, and this one caused a stir too as Sergio Ramos tried to roll the ball to Benzema, who finished, but had entered the area too early.

Much to Villarreal’s irritation, Madrid were allowed to retake and this time Benzema made no mistake before Vicente Iborra headed in what proved a late consolation.

“It’s a prize for all the work we’ve done, this is the reward,” said Ramos. “We have one more match and we want to win 11 out of 11.”

 

– Setien under pressure at Barca –

After three months away, Barcelona had returned sitting top of the table but draws with Sevilla, struggling Celta Vigo and Atletico Madrid allowed Madrid to take charge.

Barca were also in first place when they sacked Ernesto Valverde in January and while the club’s problems go deeper than their coach, Quique Setien’s position will come under scrutiny.

“Things have to change,” said Messi. “Everyone here in the club will be feeling very angry about what has happened this season and that’s normal. The players feel like that too.”

Messi added: “We have to be self-critical, starting with the players, but across the whole club.”

benzema
Real Madrid players celebrating a goal in the La Liga game with Villarreal on 16th July, 2020. Photo: [email protected] Madrid CF

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu said this week that Setien will remain in charge for next month’s Champions League tie against Napoli but the coach’s decision to leave Luis Suarez out of the starting line-up for a second consecutive game will raise questions.

Yet few could argue Madrid deserve the title and it was fitting that Benzema delivered it, his double taking his tally for the season to 26 in all competitions.

His first came after 28 minutes when Casemiro stole possession in midfield and freed Luka Modric. He slid through Benzema, who fired through the legs of Sergio Asenjo.

Ramos had scored five goals himself since the restart and could have had a sixth after he was tripped by the dangling leg of Sofian Chakla.

But his ploy to tee up Benzema backfired when his teammate encroached too early. Benzema converted the re-take.

Iborra headed in Mario Gaspar’s cross to set up a nervy finish but Barcelona were still being held by Osasuna.

Messi’s curling free-kick into the top corner had cancelled out Osasuna’s opener from Jose Arnaiz, once of Barca B.

But Osasuna had a final trick up their sleeve as Roberto Torres finished at the back post to wrap up Barca’s miserable night at the end of a turbulent season.

Real Mallorca’s hopes of survival are over after they lost 2-1 at home to Granada but Alaves guaranteed their safety by winning at Real Betis.

With Espanyol already down, the final relegation spot will be between Celta Vigo, who lost 3-2 to Levante, and Leganes, who beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0.

Leganes are a point behind and play on Sunday at home to Real Madrid while Celta visit Espanyol.

AFP

French Prosecutors Want Benzema To Stand Trial Over Sex Tape

Benzema's Blackmail Case Heads For Possible Final Hearing
File: Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema gestures during the Spanish league footbal match between Malaga CF and Real Madrid CF at La Rosaleda stadium in Malaga on April 15, 2018.JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

French prosecutors on Thursday asked for ex-national team star and Real Madrid footballer Karim Benzema to face trial on charges of involvement in an alleged attempt to blackmail fellow player Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape almost five years ago.

Prosecutors in Versailles outside Paris told AFP they want Benzema tried on charges of complicity in attempted blackmail over the incident in 2015. If convicted, he could face a five-year prison sentence.

Benzema’s lawyer, Sylvain Cormier, said he was “not at all surprised” by the request. “These are false and unjustified charges,” he added. “It’s in line with what the prosecution has been doing in this case from the start.”

READ ALSO: Leicester Need To ‘Reset Mentally’ To Qualify For Champions League – Rodgers

Four others should also face trial, they said, but not former Liverpool and French international Djibril Cisse who had previously been implicated in the probe.

It is now up to the court to decide if a trial should take place and fix a date for the process to begin.

Benzema, 32, is suspected of encouraging his former teammate in the France team Valbuena to pay blackmailers who threatened to make the intimate video public.

According to the prosecution, Benzema evoked the existence of the video to Valbuena while the French team was preparing in October 2015 for a friendly match against Armenia in Nice.

Benzema contends all that took place was a simple and friendly conversation to warn his international team-mate that such a tape existed.

Valbuena, however, alleges that there was the implication he had to pay to keep it out of the public sphere.

Benzema was indicted and briefly detained in November 2015 just before France was the next year to host the Euro 2016 football championship.

He has never since added to his 81 appearances for France and insists he is innocent. Valbuena, who played 52 times for the national side, has also never since played for France.

Cisse had been the first to inform Valbuena that the video existed but insists he was simply warning the footballer.

Benzema is the second highest scorer in La Liga this season for a Real side that is chasing just a second Spanish title in eight years.

However, French football federation president Noel Le Graet has said on a number of occasions that Benzema’s international career was effectively over.

After being left out of the France squad for Euro 2016, Benzema accused the national coach Didier Deschamps of bowing “to pressure from a racist part of France”.

But Deschamps has said that not selecting Benzema was better for the “balance” and “harmony” of his squad.

“As long as Didier Deschamps is coach, I have no chance of getting back into the France team,” Benzema said in 2017.

 

Benzema Shines As Madrid Beat Espanyol To Tighten Grip On La Liga Title

Real Madrid's French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema eyes on the ball prior to shooting and scoring his second goal during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and Valencia CF at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid, on June 18, 2020.
JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Karim Benzema delivered another moment of magic on Sunday as Real Madrid took a two-point lead over Barcelona at the top of La Liga by beating bottom club Espanyol. 

Benzema’s volley against Valencia could be goal of the season and he might now have a claim to best assist too after his brilliant backheel teed up Casemiro to finish for a crucial 1-0 win.

Madrid’s advantage in the table, coming after Barca’s draw away at Celta Vigo on Saturday, is their biggest since February and puts them within sight of their second league title in eight years.

“It’s a very important win,” said Benzema. “I can’t say we don’t look at Barcelona, of course we do. But we’re focused on our own league. There are not many games left and every game now is a final.”

Zinedine Zidane said Eden Hazard took a knock to his ankle.

“He took a big hit but it’s just a knock I think,” said Zidane.

By the time his side play at home to Getafe on Thursday they might even have the chance to move further clear, if in-form Atletico Madrid avoid defeat on Tuesday at Camp Nou.

Barcelona certainly have the harder run-in, with a resurgent Villarreal side to follow Atletico and then local rivals Espanyol, who have shown they might yet finish strong after a determined performance under new coach Franciso Rufete.

Rufete, who was previously the club’s sporting director, is Espanyol’s fourth coach of the season after the sacking of Abelardo Fernandez on Saturday.

His task is now to make up a nine-point gap between his team in 20th and Celta in 17th.

They were undone by a piece of instinctive brilliance from Benzema, who has been the catalyst for Madrid sealing five wins out of five since La Liga restarted on June 11.

Sensational assists

Benzema’s backheel came on an afternoon of sensational assists after Villarreal’s Santi Cazorla earlier set up Gerard Moreno with an incredible, cushioned touch in their 2-0 win over Valencia.

“I have to give huge credit to Karim,” said Casemiro. “It was an incredible assist. We’re used to how good he is, I know the quality he possesses so I was expecting something. He heard me asking for it and he played it in a brilliant way.”

Madrid, though, were scruffy and ponderous at the RCDE Stadium, this perhaps their least impressive win over the last three weeks.

But solidity and steel ensured they came through unscathed and it was no surprise that defensive midfielder Casemiro, arguably the team’s best player this term, was named man of the match.

Espanyol were far from outplayed and might have been ahead if they had capitalised on a series of forays down Madrid’s left in the first half.

With Marcelo repeatedly caught up field, Wu Lei was able to sprint clear and his early pull-back was met by Sergi Darder at the back post, only for his shot to be blocked by Dani Carvajal.

Madrid were sloppy but created chances. Sergio Ramos headed over Casemiro’s smashed effort across goal.

A scrap in the penalty area ended with Diego Lopez palming over a half-volley from the quiet Eden Hazard.

Espanyol were hanging on for half-time and they were caught out by Benzema.

Ramos flicked on Marcelo’s crossfield pass and Benzema, moving away from goal, backheeled off the bounce through the legs of Bernardo Espinosa for the arriving Casemiro to finish.

Wu had another chance early in the second half but scuffed his shot and both teams seemed content to let the score lie until the latter stages, when Espanyol began to take more risks.

Their best chance came in the 87th minute when a free-kick evaded the entire Madrid defence but Leandro Cabrera was just short at the back post. Marcelo almost deflected into his own net for the last action before the whistle blew.

Earlier, Villarreal continued their surge towards Champions League qualification with a victory over Valencia, inspired by Cazorla.

The 35-year-old found himself under a 60-yard punt from his goalkeeper before cushioning the ball out of the air perfectly for Gerard Moreno to volley in.

Paco Alcacer also scored against his former club as Villarreal moved just three points behind fourth-placed Sevilla.

 

AFP

Benzema Ridicules Giroud As Rift Deepens

Benzema Scores Twice To Give Madrid Win Over Eibar
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has mocked France striker Olivier Giroud by likening himself to a Formula One car and Giroud a go-kart.

Benzema has not played for France since 2015 and watched from afar as Giroud spearheaded the team’s World Cup triumph in Russia two years ago.

With over 500 appearances for Real Madrid and in his 11th season with the Spanish giants, no questions remain over Benzema’s playing skills.

Asked about the Chelsea forward during a question and answer session on Instagram on Sunday night, Benzema said: “You can’t confuse a Formula One car with a go-kart, and I’m being kind. I know I’m a Formula One car…

“It works because he’s there, that’s it. It’s not going to be spectacular. (Antoine) Griezmann and (Kylian) Mbappe get seen more while he rolls his sleeves up and does the dirty work.

“But does everyone like his game? I don’t know.”

During the 2016 and 2017 seasons ahead of up Russia 2018, Giroud scored 16 goals for France in 24 games.

He also played every match at the World Cup and although he failed to find the target in Russia, his team came home with the trophy.

France coach Didier Deschamps has sidelined Benzema since a legal case in 2015.

The case involving Benzema allegedly trying to facilitate a scheme to blackmail fellow France international Mathieu Valbuena over a compromising private film on a stolen mobile phone.

The investigation is ongoing and Benzema is now waiting to hear if he will face a criminal trial.

Benzema has scored 19 goals in 32 appearances for Real Madrid this season while Giroud has largely been a back-up player for Chelsea, despite a decent run of form in February.

AFP

Sex Tape: Benzema Makes Final Plea To Have Valbuena Case Dismissed

Benzema Scores Twice To Give Madrid Win Over Eibar
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema reacts during the Spanish league football match between Real Madrid CF and SD Eibar at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on April 6, 2019. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Lawyers for Karim Benzema urged a top French appeals court on Monday to throw out a years-long case over an alleged attempt to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape, which has kept the Real Madrid star from playing for France’s national side.

The French striker argues that a police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair, which began in June 2015.

That was when Valbuena received a call from a blackmailer who threatened to release an intimate video and contacted the police.

Investigators later accused Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and Valbuena, which Benzema has denied.

While resorting to some ruses can be common in police work, “the sin is in the zeal shown by this officer”, Benzema’s lawyer Fabrice Spinosi told the Court of Cassation in Paris.

READ ALSO: Zidane Says Real ‘Not Looking For Revenge’ Against PSG

“He eventually took charge of the exchanges by regularly renewing his contacts” despite Benzema’s attempts to end their conversations, he said.

A previous appeal to a court in Versailles in December 2016 had failed, but the Court of Cassation later annulled that ruling and instructed the Paris Court of Appeal to hear the case again.

Benzema has been under formal investigation while fighting the charges and has not played for France since 2015.

The Cassation court said Monday that it would issue its decision on December 9.

If Benzema’s claim is rejected, the prospect of a trial will loom, whereas acceptance would likely result in the charges being dropped.

Benzema Ensures Madrid Bounce Back With Impressive Win Over Sevilla

Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane (R) congratulates Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema for his goal during the Spanish league football match between Sevilla FC and Real Madrid CF at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on September 22, 2019. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

 

 

Real Madrid eased the pressure on Zinedine Zidane and delivered a resounding response to their loss to Paris Saint-Germain by winning 1-0 away at high-flying Sevilla in La Liga on Sunday.

Karim Benzema headed in the decisive goal at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan to secure an impressive victory against a Sevilla side that were unbeaten and hoping to return to the top of the table.

Instead, it is Madrid that go level on points with Athletic Bilbao in first place after a controlled and determined performance that was by some distance their best since Zidane’s return as coach in March.

“We have had a quite difficult time but the players reacted,” Zidane said.

His position had come under scrutiny after Madrid’s woeful 3-0 defeat by PSG in the Champions League on Wednesday, a result that continued their bumpy start to the season, following a turbulent summer in the transfer market.

But this win should do wonders for belief and leaves Barcelona as Spain’s chief club in crisis, with Ernesto Valverde under pressure after they were beaten 2-0 by Granada on Saturday. Madrid are now four points clear of the Catalans after five games played.

“I am very happy as people have been questioning us a lot,” said Zidane. “But we don’t think much about that. We played 90 minutes at a very high level in a difficult stadium. We must congratulate all the players.”

Not for the first time this season, Zidane singled out Gareth Bale for praise. “Today hard work was the key,” he said. “The effort made by James, Gareth, all of them.”

Sevilla’s newly-installed coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by Madrid 11 months ago, 139 days after taking the job that cost him the chance to lead Spain at the World Cup.

He insisted on Saturday there was no desire for revenge but it is hard to imagine victory would not have brought a little extra satisfaction.

Zidane was asked about his own future as well, several times, and while he maintained he still feels the full backing of the club, there was a warning too. If support dwindles, he said, “then it would probably be best to leave”.

Lopetegui booked

But for all the problems — a dreadful pre-season, signings and sales missed, poor performances against Real Valladolid, Villarreal, Levante and PSG — Madrid now sit second, buoyed by a display that may yet prove a springboard for games to come.

A frantic opening half an hour made for an engrossing contest but there were few chances, as Lopetegui earned himself a booking for beckoning Gareth Bale to be shown a yellow card.

Real Madrid probably just shaded the first period and had its two best chances as Eden Hazard was slipped in by Benzema, only to be denied by Tomas Vaclik on the angle, before Dani Carvajal was sent clear by James Rodriguez but this time Vaclik’s right foot blocked the defender’s finish.

There was little in it, as Bale’s excellent cross almost found James at the back post shortly after half-time while Luuk de Jong went close with a header, prompting Carvajal to hack the ball clear at the far post.

Still, Madrid looked more likely and so it proved as Raphael Varane won back possession high up, allowing Bale to thread Carvajal in behind. He dug out a cross, which Benzema met brilliantly, rising high to head home his fifth goal of the season.

Sevilla might have equalised but De Jong headed wide under pressure from Carvajal and then Javier Hernandez did score, in the 87th minute, poking in at the near post, only for the assistant to raise his flag.

Bale could have made it two late on but hit the side-netting from an acute angle. One was enough.

Zidane Drops Casemiro, Recalls Benzema For Bayern Clash

 

Zidane Drops Casemiro, Recalls Benzema For Bayern Clash
Real Madrid’s Brazilian midfielder Casemiro takes part in a training session on the eve of the UEFA Champions League semi-final first-leg football match FC Bayern Munich v Real Madrid in Munich, southern Germany on April 24, 2018. Photo: Christof STACHE / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane sprung a surprise by dropping Casemiro for Real Madrid’s Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich on Tuesday.

Casemiro started on the bench for the first time in this season’s knock-out stage, with Mateo Kovacic coming into a three-man midfield alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.

There was no place again for Gareth Bale at the Santiago Bernabeu as Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema supported Cristiano Ronaldo in attack. Lucaz Vazquez was set to start at right-back in place of the injured Dani Carvajal.

Bayern were missing a number of key players, including Javi Martinez, Jerome Boateng, Arjen Robben, Arturo Vidal and Manuel Neuer.

Corentin Tolisso replaced Martinez in midfield while Niklas Suele was brought into central defence. James Rodriguez, on loan from Real, started against his parent club.

Starting line-ups for the Champions League semi-final, second leg between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday (kick-off 1845 GMT; Real Madrid lead 2-1 from first leg):

Bayern Munich (4-4-1-1)

Sven Ulreich; Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels, Niklas Suele, David Alaba; Thomas Mueller (capt), Thiago Alcantara, Corentin Tolisso, Franck Ribery; James Rodriguez, Robert Lewandowski

Coach: Jupp Heynckes (GER)

Real Madrid (4-3-3)

Keylor Navas; Lucas Vazquez, Sergio Ramos (capt), Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric, Toni Kroos; Marco Asensio, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema

Coach: Zinedine Zidane (FRA)

Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (TUR)

AFP

Benzema, Bale Left On Real Bench As James Starts For Bayern

 

Benzema, Bale Left On Real Bench As James Starts For Bayern
Real Madrid’s French forward Karim Benzema. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane left out both Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema from Real Madrid’s starting line-up for Wednesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg at Bayern Munich.

The holders started with Isco and Lucas Vazquez either side of Cristiano Ronaldo.

Having already left Benzema on the bench for the quarter-final second leg against Juventus, Real coach Zidane dropped Bale as well.

Captain Sergio Ramos returned to Real’s starting line-up after missing the dramatic return game with Juve through suspension.

There were no such surprises in the Bayern line-up.

James Rodriguez, who is on loan from Real, started for the Germans against his parent club with midfielder Thiago Alcantara left on the bench.

Set-piece expert David Alaba failed to recover from a thigh injury and Rafinha took his place at left-back.

Bayern head coach Jupp Heynckes opted for experience on the wings in Arjen Robben, 34, and Franck Ribery, 35, playing out wide with Robert Lewandowski through the middle.

Bayern Munich (4-1-4-1):

Sven Ulreich; Joshua Kimmich, Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Rafinha; Javi Martinez; Arjen Robben, Thomas Mueller (capt), James Rodriguez, Franck Ribery; Robert Lewandowski

Coach: Jupp Heynckes (GER)

Real Madrid (4-3-3):

Keylor Navas; Dani Carvajal, Sergio Ramos (capt), Raphael Varane, Marcelo; Luka Modric, Casemiro, Toni Kroos; Isco, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lucas Vazquez

Coach: Zinedine Zidane (FRA)

Referee: Bjoern Kuipers (NED)

AFP

French Federation Chief Blocks Path To Benzema Return

French Federation Chief Blocks Path To Benzema Return

The president of the French Football Federation (FFF) has effectively ruled out any prospect of a return to the national team for Karim Benzema ahead of next year’s World Cup.

“You would need to be a bit blind or deaf to not understand that it will be difficult to select him, that seems unquestionable,” the FFF’s Noel Le Graet told RMC radio on Wednesday.

“It should also be said that we have a certain number of talented players in attack, and it is less of a problem than a few years ago.”

The 29-year-old Real Madrid star has won 81 caps for his country but has not played since October 2015, when a scandal over a sex tape broke out with Benzema implicated.

Benzema was one of a number of people accused of blackmailing his then international teammate Mathieu Valbuena — now with Turkish club Fenerbahce — over the tape.

Benzema was placed under investigation for “complicity to and attempted blackmail”.

After being left out of the France squad for Euro 2016, the striker accused the national coach Didier Deschamps of bowing “to pressure from a racist part of France”.

But Deschamps has said that not selecting Benzema was better for the “balance” and “harmony” of his squad.

“As long as Didier Deschamps is coach, I have no chance of getting back into the France team,” Benzema said in an interview with Canal Plus last month.

AFP