The team had their final training before facing Villareal at El Madrigal.
Benítez: “Villarreal are a really well-drilled side, but we’re after the three points”
by Javier Garcia | Photographer: Helios De La Rubia
“Villarreal will put everything the team have shown in recent games to the test”, he added.
Rafa Benítez spoke to the media after overseeing Real Madrid’s final training session before taking on Villarreal, and the Whites’ coach looked ahead to Sunday’s clash at El Madrigal: “The team are in good shape, they’re confident and are working really well. They’re a really good group of professionals. We’re getting good results and that brings added confidence. Villarreal are very tough, because they’re a really well-drilled side, but we’re after the three points and are out to leave our fans with plenty to shout about”.
“The team have reacted well. Coming away with records, goals and wins from games is always difficult against any opposition. Villarreal will put everything the team have shown in recent games to the test. It’s difficult, but going there and getting the three points is a challenge and an incentive. I know Marcelino [García Toral] well; he’s a friend of mine and a great coach. Denis Suárez is one of their most dangerous players”.
“He’s ready to play; we have to decide on the line-up because I still haven’t picked it, but he’s fit to play”.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema’s form
“They’re two different cases, both players are really important to us. The two of them score a lot of goals. Karim scores goals and provides assists, although he’s less prolific than Cristiano and we’ve been on at him to be more ambitious in front of goal, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. They both need confidence and we’re giving them that”.
Relationship with Cristiano
“My relationship with the dressing rooom is very good, even if there are people who say the opposite. Working together closely day in, day out allows the players to appreciate what the coaching staff are doing. We’re getting to know each other and adapting to each other. That time spent together can only be benficial for the team”.
Battle for the title
“I said at the beginning that teams would drop more points than in other seasons. It’s pretty tight and it will be that way until the end. We have to keep pace, string together more wins and carry on fighting at the top of the table”.
“We have more and more confidence and the challenge is to carry on in the same vein.”
“We focus on what we’re capable of and on winning all three points in every game. Before we think about looking at the table and what other teams are doing, we concentrate on going into each match for the three points”.
“He hasn’t surprised me; I knew that he was a really good professional and a terrific player. He brings a lot to the dressing room in terms of his character, personality and experience. I’m happy, because he’s over his injury and is helping us. I hope that he keeps it up until the end of the season”.
“The three guys up front are crucial for us. [Gareth] Bale is very competitive and from the off has brought goals and assists, and is one the players to have done so the most. He really helps the team to function well. He was out injured, but since his return he’s been crucial. He’s working really hard to help the team, he adapts and interchanges his position with his team-mates and is crucial for us”.
Problems experienced by Cristiano
“I’m not going to go into his problems, which he has overcome. For me, he has always delivered a high level of performance. Allied with his all-round quality, he’s showing his ability to hit the target. I said that he was going to score a lot of goals and now that he’s banging them in that’s good news for me, because that gives him confidence”.
France and Benzema
“My concern is Karim. The club has released a statement and Karim has my full support. He’s an excellent individual, a great player and is crucial for us. I want him to keep on scoring goals, feel at ease and help Real Madrid”.
“The better shape the players are in and the higher the competition for places, you’re always going to talk to me about particular individuals and I’ll always say the same. This is Real Madrid, the level of quality and competition here is very high. I’ll decide on my line-up tomorrow. If we manage to talk about the team and their successes every week rather than a specific player, I’ll be very happy”.
“The team have more and more confidence. They’re defending well, scoring goals, working hard and winning the ball back. They’re positives that we’re working on and seeing in our games. The challenge is to carry on in the same vein, starting on Sunday”.
“We have enough quality to ensure that competition for places is high. I’m delighted with Casemiro, as I am with his team-mates. He has to fight and compete for a place. It’s great news for us if the players are fighting for places”.
Copa del Rey
“I understand the question and your concern with the matter. I refer you to the statement that the club has issued. We have an important game at Villarreal and we’re focused on that”.
The following players were called up for tomorrow’s match:
Goalkeepers: Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla and Rubén Yáñez.
Defenders: Pepe, Ramos, Nacho, Marcelo and Danilo.
Midfielders: Kroos, James, Bale, Casemiro, Kovacic, Modric and Isco.
Forwards: Jesé, Lucas Vázquez, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Here’s a few more pictures from the Emirates plane photo shoot.