Casemiro has urged Real Madrid fans to stop targeting Gareth Bale as "when you whistle a player like that, you're whistling the history of this club".

Bale was whistled at by Los Blancos supporters when he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 LaLiga win over Getafe at Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

The forward has only played five games for the leaders in the Spanish top flight this season and Madrid fans were not impressed when he declared himself unfit for a Clasico hammering against Barcelona last month, before inspiring Wales to a World Cup play-off win over Austria four days later.

Bale has won the Champions League four times and LaLiga twice since arriving in the Spanish capital nine years ago, but his relationship with Madrid fans has soured.

The 32-year-old, who is set to leave when his contract expires at the end of the season, did not do himself any favours when he held a flag with the words 'Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order' after helping his country qualify for Euro 2020.

Yet Madrid midfielder Casemiro has called on supporters to lay off Bale ahead of the Champions League quarter-final second leg at home to Chelsea on Tuesday.

The Brazil international said: "When you whistle one player, you whistle all of us. Football is about opinions, everyone has theirs, but I don't agree when a player on my team is whistled. We're all on the same side, we have to support him."

He added: "I didn't like the whistles the other day for Bale. He's a historic player for this club. He's scored a lot of important goals for this club.

"When you whistle a player like that, you're whistling the history of this club. I didn't like it. I think the fans have to support us."

Madrid will start the clash against holders Chelsea with a 3-1 lead but Casemiro says they must not think it is job done.

He said: "We have to go in to it with the idea that it's going to be a very difficult game. We had our best 90 minutes of the season in the first leg, but we can't be complacent, especially given the coach's words about them.

"I'd like to ask the fans to get behind us because it'll be difficult as we're up against the champions and we respect them. We have to give our all along with the fans because it'll be very, very difficult."

Casemiro added: "When talking about Real Madrid, we always talk about winning everything. Everyone wanted to win a title at the start of the season, to be in the knockout stages like this and 12 points clear in LaLiga. We're working hard, but we've still got the hardest part to come."

Real Madrid should not be ashamed to be reliant upon talisman Karim Benzema, according to Los Blancos head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

France international Benzema has helped Madrid to the LaLiga summit, 12 points clear of Barcelona, who have played a game less.

The former Lyon striker also propelled the LaLiga giants into the ascendancy with his hat-trick in a 3-1 win against Chelsea in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at Stamford Bridge.

Indeed, he became the first player to score a treble against the Blues in European competition as he joined Cristiano Ronaldo, Luiz Adriano and Lionel Messi as the fourth player to manage consecutive hat-tricks in the Champions League following his heroics in the last 16 against Paris Saint-Germain.

Only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (46) has found the net more times in Europe's top-five leagues in all competitions than Benzema, who has 37 goals to his name in as many appearances.

Ancelotti heaped praise on his star forward as he fielded questions over whether potential transfer target Erling Haaland would be put off Madrid by Benzema's exploits.

"What a question... I'm sorry, I can't answer," he said. 

"But I can say that Benzema is a modern centre-forward, in the past the number nine would get into the area and finish off whatever was going on there.

"Karim is what modern football demands in a striker, shooting, playing, defensive work, not giving away balls... It's the perfect representation of what a centre forward should be today".

Benzema and Vinicius Junior have formed a formidable partnership this campaign, with the duo combining for a competition-leading five goals in the Champions League.

Ancelotti referenced the likes of Los Blancos greats Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale as he pointed towards his new pairing as the stars of the show this season.

"The season says that there are two strikers who have stood out a lot, Vinicius and Benzema," he added.

"In the past we had Cristiano, Bale... To say that we are dependent on Benzema is the truth, there is no need to hide it. I am very happy to be dependent on Benzema".

Benzema has netted 11 times in the Champions League this campaign, the most by a Frenchman in Europe's premier club competition and as many as he had scored in the previous two editions combined.

He will look to add to that tally at home to Chelsea on Tuesday as Ancelotti aims to qualify for an eighth Champions League semi-final – the joint-most of any coach in history, along with Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti prefers the day-to-day running of club management amid questions about whether he would take up an international role.

Ancelotti has guided Madrid to the summit of LaLiga, 12 points clear of a resurgent Barcelona, who do have a game in hand.

Madrid are also in contention to go all the way in the Champions League. Los Blancos are 3-1 up in their quarter-final against reigning European champions Chelsea heading into Tuesday's second leg.

While Ancelotti has Madrid on course for success this season, speculation swirls as to whether president Florentino Perez will stick with the 62-year-old for next season.

The failure of Italy to qualify for two straight World Cups has also brought Roberto Mancini's position into question, but Ancelotti – a reported option to take over as Azzurri coach in 2018 – prefers club football.

"I have thought about it, to train a national team," he told a news conference when asked about the Italy job. 

"To be honest I must say that I like the day-to-day of club football. The matches give you emotion and happiness.

"But there is of course the worry and the day-to-day stress – when I lose the desire for the daily work, I will stop."

The former Bayern Munich and Chelsea boss opted to leave Everton for Madrid at the start of this season, after guiding the Toffees to an underwhelming 10th in his only full Premier League campaign with them following a 12th-placed finish in 2019-20.

Everton were looking good to mount a challenge for Champions League qualification as late as March, yet only managed three wins from their final 12 top-flight games.

The Merseyside club are now fighting relegation, but Ancelotti said Madrid, who he coached previously between 2013 and 2015, were the only suitors capable of turning his head.

"With Everton, I was having a good time," he said. "Then Madrid called me and I can understand why [Everton] got angry, but it was difficult to say 'no'.

"It was the only team I couldn't say no to. To the rest, I could say no."

Asked whether he would be in charge in 2022-23, Ancelotti replied: "I hope so, but I'm not thinking about that.

"I'm not thinking about the contract. If the club is happy, I'm still happy. If not, I'll appreciate it, period. I trust at the end of the season, it will be good."

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid can win the Champions League but is braced for a tough quarter-final second leg against Chelsea.

Madrid hold a 3-1 advantage after defeating Chelsea for the first time in Europe and will be expected to finish off the job at in the Spanish capital on Tuesday.

Thomas Tuchel has conceded the holders face an almost "impossible" task in the Spanish capital, as they have to win by their biggest margin away from home in the competition just to take the tie into extra time.

No English side has ever won by more than a single goal at Santiago Bernabeu in the Champions League, making Ancelotti's team the strong favourites to make the semi-finals.

That would set up a meeting with either Manchester City and Atletico Madrid, but Ancelotti is not getting ahead of himself even if he thinks his team have the credentials to lift the famous trophy.

Asked at a pre-match news conference what Madrid were missing to be labelled as favourites, he said: "There is nothing missing, but nobody can say that they are going to win because the Champions League is very difficult.

"Not everyone can compete, you need a lot of quality, experience, personality. That's why I said that this team can compete."

Madrid are looking to become the first team to win both legs against Chelsea in a Champions League tie since Bayern Munich in the 2019-20 season.

But Ancelotti expects the Blues to come out fighting after Tuchel was critical of their display at Stamford Bridge last week.

"Everyone knows that it will be a difficult match, like all the quarter-finals in the Champions League," he continued. "Whatever happens in the first leg, you have to fight and compete.

"You have to be switched on for 90 minutes. We expect Chelsea are going to come out strong. I am lucky that my squad knows this type of match and what can happen. We won't go out relaxed.

"My squad is happy to play because it's a great opportunity to reach a semi-final."

Pressed on Tuchel stating it is an almost impossible task for his side to progress, Ancelotti said: "I don't know. They will come and fight despite it being difficult. They are a big team with a spirit that never gives up."

If Madrid do progress to the last four, Ancelotti will have made the Champions League semi-finals for an eighth time – the joint-most by a coach in the competition, along with Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho.

Guardiola will take his tally to nine if City get knock Atleti out.

Thomas Tuchel says it will be "almost impossible" for Chelsea to avoid a Champions League exit but they must dream of fighting back to knock Real Madrid out.

A Karim Benzema consigned the holders to a 3-1 defeat in the first leg of the quarter-final tie at Stamford Bridge last week.

Chelsea responded to that loss by hammering Southampton 6-0 in the Premier League on Saturday, while Madrid stayed on course to be crowned LaLiga champions with a 2-0 victory over Getafe.

The Blues, who will be without injured record signing Romelu Lukaku due to an Achilles injury, have a mountain to climb at Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday and Tuchel is realistic over their chances of progressing to the last four.

But the German expects his side to put up more of a fight than they did in London last week.

He said: "It's one of the biggest challenges to perform as an away team at the Bernabeu. If you have to win by at least two goals, it is very difficult, almost impossible. We need to overperform.

He added: "We never manage our input and effort by chances we have for a result, we never did and will not start tomorrow by giving less because it's very unlikely we will make it.

"It's unlikely, but we will try, we will play to our full limit. It's a big night and a big match and we wll try to be in better shape and in a better condition than in the first leg."

Tuchel says Chelsea must arrive in the Spanish capital with belief they can pull off a stunning comeback.

"We need nothing else than a fantastic script," he said. "The task is incredibly high after the first leg. You're always allowed to dream and sometimes it is important to imagine and dream about things, but it doesn't change the fact we need to be ready to deliver.

"We will try hard, it's worth trying. Hopefully we can fulfil our dream, but realistically we have to invest a lot."

Cesar Azpilicueta is available after testing negative for COVID-19, while Callum Hudson-Odoi remains sidelined with an Achilles injury and Ross Barkley is out due to illness.

Not a window goes by where Sergej Milinkovic-Savic's name does not emerge in transfer speculation.

The 27-year-old's contract expires at the end of the 2023-24 season, but Juventus are keen to move on the long sought-after Lazio midfielder.

The Serbia international has only progressed under Maurizio Sarri, attracting reported interest from the Turn giants.

 

TOP STORY – JUVE RAMP UP CHASE FOR MILINKOVIC-SAVIC

Milinkovic-Savic's agent Mateja Kezman has commenced talks with Juventus over a possible transfer from Lazio, according to Calciomercato.

The Serbian midfielder has long been a weak area since their appearance in the Champions League final in 2015, and multiple coaches in that period have not been conducive for personnel.

Lazio president Claudio Lotito famously placed an initial €100million value on Milinkovic-Savic, but it has reportedly dropped to €70m. It is perceived that price tag is still too steep a figure for Juventus, as a consequence of compatriot Dusan Vlahovic's signing in January.

It is believed that Lazio would be open to players in return as part of a packaged deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United and Arsenal have joined the race to sign Benfica striker Darwin Nunez, the Mirror reports.

- Erling Haaland has dismissed interest from Manchester United, believing they do not meet the Norwegian striker's ambitions, according to ESPN.

- Paris Saint-Germain are in talks to sign Chelsea forward Romelu Lukaku, only a year after he joined the London club from Inter, per the Sun.

- Roma are interested in signing Aston Villa midfielder Douglas Luiz, Calciomercato is reporting.

- Spanish international Marco Asensio is expected to leave Real Madrid at the end of the season, per Mundo Deportivo, with Milan and Tottenham interested.

Jesse Lingard's future with Manchester United is unclear.

The 29-year-old England international is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lingard had a brilliant loan spell at West Ham United last season but has remained out of favour at Old Trafford this term.

 

TOP STORY – ITALIAN OPTIONS FOR LINGARD

Lingard could reunite with Jose Mourinho at Roma, with the Italian club joining the race for the forward, according to the Mirror.

Lingard is being pursued by West Ham following his impressive loan spell, while Newcastle United are also interested in the 29-year-old.

Serie A clubs Milan and Juventus also have an interest in Lingard, with a move to Italy offering a lucrative alternative option.

English pair Chris Smalling and Tammy Abraham have enjoyed productive spells at Roma, while Ainsley Maitland-Niles is on loan from Arsenal.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are moving on from their pursuit of Kylian Mbappe , who appears set to stay with Paris Saint-Germain, by turning their attention to landing Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, claims the Mirror.

- Inter will make a move to sign Romelu Lukaku on loan from Chelsea, following his August exit from the Italian champions, reports Football Insider. Lukaku previously expressed his regret at leaving Inter.

- The Sun claims that Arsenal and Tottenham will battle to sign Leicester City midfielder James Maddison who is rated at £60million and could be put up for sale.

- Danny Ings could be on his way out of Aston Villa as manager Steven Gerrard plans a clear-out, according to the Mirror.

- CBS Sports claims Liverpool and West Ham are no longer interested in Leicester City's Youri Tielemans, leaving the door open for Manchester United to land the midfielder.

- Juventus are circling for Chelsea midfielder Jorginho , reports Tutto Mercato.

Carlo Ancelotti praised Gareth Bale's professionalism after the Welshman was subjected to boos from sections of the Real Madrid fanbase during Saturday's win against Getafe.

Bale was a 74th-minute substitute during the 2-0 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu, completing four of five passes and hitting two shots, one of which tested Getafe goalkeeper David Soria from distance.

The 32-year-old has been a divisive figure in the Spanish capital, scoring crucial goals and winning four Champions League trophies in his time there, but he has missed a lot of football through injury in recent years.

Bale has also made it known he prefers to play for Wales than for his club, and is expected to bring his nine years at Madrid to an end when his contract expires at the end of the season.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Ancelotti refused to criticise the fans, but did praise Bale and insisted he will continue to play if fit.

"The fans are very important, such as against PSG," he said, referring to the recent dramatic 3-2 aggregate turnaround in the Champions League round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain. 

"Bale has been whistled but he's a serious professional and if he's well, he can play."

Goals from Casemiro and Lucas Vazquez sealed the win, which restored Madrid's 12-point lead at the top of LaLiga, and Ancelotti was satisfied with his team's performance, but insisted the title race is not yet over.

"We're closer [to the title]," he said. "It's a good run but it's not over yet, we have to keep fighting, we have two away games now with Sevilla and Osasuna."

Los Blancos' next game is on Tuesday when Chelsea come to Spain for their Champions League quarter-final second leg, where Madrid will have a 3-1 aggregate lead.

The Blues warmed up for the clash with an emphatic 6-0 win at Southampton on Saturday, and Ancelotti remains wary of his former club, saying: "It will be a difficult game, we have to prepare it as if we don't have that advantage.

"Today, [Chelsea] won by many goals. We are going to have to be very focused."

Real Madrid secured victory against Getafe at the Santiago Bernabeu to restore their 12-point lead at the top of LaLiga on Saturday.

It was a relatively comfortable evening's work for Madrid, with Casemiro's first-half header and Lucas Vazquez's second-half finish sealing a 2-0 win.

Madrid controlled the game from start to finish, and Carlo Ancelotti was even able to save the legs of some of his key players.

The coach made four changes from the midweek Champions League win against Chelsea, resting Dani Carvajal, Ferland Mendy, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric with one eye on the quarter-final second leg.

Stamford Bridge hat-trick hero Karim Benzema remained in the line-up and had the ball in the net inside four minutes after a long pass from David Alaba fell kindly to him, only to see the flag go up for offside.

Madrid dominated the early stages but struggled to create chances, with Federico Valverde coming closest with a volley from a Benzema cross, forcing a tremendous save from David Soria.

The deadlock was broken in the 38th minute after Vinicius Junior put in a delightful cross with the outside of his right foot for Casemiro to head in at the far post.

The hosts knocked on the door for another soon after the break, with Valverde again going close with a free-kick from range.

But Madrid were made to wait until the 68th minute when Vazquez played a neat one-two on the right with Rodrygo before placing the ball with his left foot into the far corner of the net.

The visitors showed a brief glimpse of fight at the end, with Enes Unal hitting the post with an effort in the 90th minute, but it was merely a minor scare for the league leaders.

After a disappointing few seasons in LaLiga, Eden Hazard may be heading back to the Premier League next term.

Hazard has made 65 appearances for Real Madrid since arriving ahead of the 2019-20 season, but has not played more than 25 minutes in a league game since a late-January fixture against Elche.

Battling poor form and injury, Real Madrid are reportedly planning to loan the Belgian winger out for next season, and one Premier League club has jumped to the front of the line.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL HOPE TO LAND HAZARD ON LOAN

If Real Madrid are to loan out Hazard, Foot Mercato is reporting that Arsenal are the team most aggressively seeking his services.

According to the report, Real Madrid's plan is to loan the former Chelsea star for the 2022-23 season, with the goal of increasing his value enough to sell him ahead of the 2023-24 season, when one year remains on his deal.

Arsenal used a similar tactic to land Martin Odegaard last season, securing him on loan from the Meringues in January before signing him with a €35million transfer seven months later.

It is worth noting that the Foot Mercato report also stated that Hazard has no interest in leaving the Spanish side after this season, and may be willing to ride out the rest of his contract.

 

ROUND-UP

Newcastle United are set to challenge Manchester United for the signature of Leeds midfielder Kalvin Phillips, according to i News.

Newcastle and Borussia Dortmund are reportedly interested in Real Sociedad star Mikel Merino, per Fichajes.

– El Nacional is reporting that Barcelona believe Ousmane Dembele will leave the club and head to Paris Saint-Germain if the French giants do not retain Kylian Mbappe.

– According to ESPN's report, Erling Haaland fears Manchester United would not be able to match his competitive ambitions on the pitch.

– Benfica's Darwin Nunez is signing with a new agent as Arsenal and Manchester United circle the striker who has five goals in nine Champions League games this campaign, per Metro.

Mauricio Pochettino believes staying at Paris Saint-Germain would be the best thing for Kylian Mbappe.

The superstar striker is out of contract at the end of the season and has been strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid, but recent reports have suggested he may yet sign a new deal with his hometown club.

Mbappe has scored 28 goals in 38 games for PSG in all competitions this season, with his 45 direct goal involvements dwarfing the tallies of Messi (18) and Neymar (12).

On Sunday, Mbappe was involved in all five of PSG's goals in a 5-1 hammering of Lorient, scoring twice and providing three assists. It was the first time in his club career that he had been involved in as many goals in a single match.

Once again pressed on Mbappe's future ahead of Saturday's trip to Clermont, Pochettino told a media conference: "When Kylian is here, you can ask him and he can give you a better answer. PSG, just like me as the coach, want the best for Kylian and the club.

"We think that the best thing for this club is for Mbappe to stay, and we think it is also good for Kylian to stay here with us. Then, there are negotiations that have to serve to reach an agreement."

Pochettino also believes that Mbappe has made significant strides in his development since he took over from Thomas Tuchel in January of last year.

"Kylian is a clear example of how, when we arrived, his form wasn't as everyone expected it to be," Pochettino said.

"But thanks to his hard work and the commitment and confidence that we have generated here, particularly over the last year, he has shown what a fantastic player he is. 

"The most important thing here is his commitment and his ability to turn around difficult situations because when we arrived here it was a difficult time for him.

Pochettino will be without several players through injury for Saturday's match, and also confirmed he will rest Marquinhos after his captain's partner recently gave birth.

"[Marquinhos] has had a few niggles and so we have decided to give him a rest, especially given the week he has had with the birth of his daughter," Pochettino added.

When asked if Mbappe could take the armband in the Brazilian's absence, Pochettino replied: "I think that is possible for Mbappe and other players as well. Kylian is certainly part of the possible group."

Carlo Ancelotti wants Gareth Bale to leave Real Madrid in a blaze of glory rather than with his reputation sullied, hailing the Welsh winger as a history maker.

Bale was a €100million (£85.3m) signing from Tottenham nine years ago during Ancelotti's first stint as Los Blancos coach, and with Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema he formed part of a thrilling front three.

The 32-year-old has already won the Champions League four times in Madrid, as well as two LaLiga titles, but in recent seasons Bale has been nudged towards the fringes of the squad.

Injuries have been a factor, and while Bale has been reliably brilliant for the Wales national team, opportunities in Madrid have become sporadic. He spent last season on loan at Tottenham.

His contract expires at the end of June, and Bale will be moving on. This season he has faced vicious criticism in some sections of the Spanish media, recently being dubbed a "parasite" in sports daily Marca, and there has been a danger of him leaving without any fanfare, or even amid a torrent of negativity.

Bale did not help himself when he paraded a flag bearing the immortal slogan "Wales. Golf. Madrid. In that order" after helping his national team qualify for Euro 2020.

Yet head coach Ancelotti says Bale, who could face Getafe in LaLiga on Saturday, is worthy of respect for his achievements in Spain.

He has scored 81 goals in 175 LaLiga games for the club, and has managed five goals and two assists in eight league games against Getafe.

In the Champions League, Bale has totted up 16 goals and 12 assists in 41 starts and 16 substitute appearances. That figure includes two crucial goals in Madrid's 3-1 defeat of Liverpool in the 2018 final in Kyiv.

The most recent outing from the bench came on Wednesday, late in the day as Madrid won 3-1 at Chelsea in the first leg of their quarter-final.

Madrid could yet win a famous double in Bale's final season at the club.

"Gareth Bale is fit right now. I'm sure he wants to show it here at Real Madrid," said Ancelotti. "It would be deserved and right for him to bid farewell to the Bernabeu.

"He expects confidence in him from us. He wants to finish his career at Real Madrid on a high note. We will see how it goes.

"He has already made history at Real Madrid with his games, his goals and his triumphs. He's a very respected player, and we want the best for him."

Karim Benzema was served a rich compliment when Carlo Ancelotti said the Real Madrid striker reminds him of the great Marco van Basten.

Madrid head coach Ancelotti told a news conference he also expects Benzema to remain a talisman for the LaLiga giants, even if the club bring in Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland before next season.

French striker Benzema has 10 goals in his last four games, boosting his total to 37 in 36 appearances during a remarkable campaign for the 34-year-old club captain.

It will not have escaped Benzema's attention that Madrid are engaged in long-term planning, with his France team-mate Mbappe thought to be their prime target.

Paris Saint-Germain frontman Mbappe and Borussia Dortmund's Haaland are the two hottest young properties in the European game, and it might not be beyond the realm of possibility that both end up in Madrid.

Asked how that might change Benzema's position in the pecking order, Ancelotti cast doubt on whether it should make any immediate difference.

"Considering Karim's age, and considering the fact over the past years he's been getting better and better, I don't think this situation will change," Ancelotti said. "I know he will continue to do well, and he's one of the most important players of this club. We will see what happens, but I'm sure nothing will change for him."

Ancelotti, whose Madrid side face Getafe on Saturday evening, was asked how Benzema compared to players he has coached in the past, including the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Didier Drogba.

This spurred the veteran Italian to mention Van Basten, his former Milan team-mate and a Dutch legend whose career was cruelly cut short by injury.

"It's really difficult to make these comparisons because we're talking about different eras and different people," Ancelotti responded.

"I think comparing him to Van Basten is actually a good comparison. I think they would both appreciate that comparison, Marco and Karim."

It remains to be seen whether Ancelotti remains at the helm with Madrid next season.

His team are close to securing the LaLiga title, holding a 12-point lead over Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, and a 3-1 win at Chelsea on Wednesday gave them a handsome first-leg lead in their Champions League quarter-final.

Benzema's hat-trick at Stamford Bridge should mean Tuesday's second leg is one that Madrid can safely negotiate.

Yet doubts exist and rumours circulate about whether Madrid are planning to stick with Ancelotti, who arrived ahead of this season after a stint with Everton.

Asked about his prospects, Ancelotti said: "I enjoy what I do every day. I love the atmosphere we have in the team and I'm 100 per cent focused on my work.

"When the season is over, we will evaluate everything, and we will make decisions."

He refused to give himself a mark out of 10 for his performance so far.

"I'm not giving myself any marks," he said. "I have to give it my all, and we have to wait until the end of the season to see if we are lucky enough and have enough quality to win titles, and then we will draw conclusions."

Karim Benzema is playing "the season of his life" as Real Madrid team-mates queued up to praise the inspirational captain after his latest Champions League hat-trick.

French frontman Benzema hit all three of his side's goals in their 3-1 victory at Chelsea on Wednesday, the first leg of a quarter-final tie over which Madrid now have firm control.

That performance in London saw Benzema advance to 37 goals and 13 assists in 36 games this season. His goal involvements total of 50 puts him top of all players from Europe's top five leagues, with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski second on the list with 49 involvements (45 goals, four assists).

Ten of those goals from Benzema have come in his past four games, with Champions League hat-tricks against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea sandwiching LaLiga doubles against Real Mallorca and Celta Vigo.

When he was absent against Barcelona due to injury, Madrid looked lost without their talisman and were thumped 4-0 in El Clasico.

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel sounded a despondent note after the game, warning of the danger of his team being destroyed in next week's second leg if they deliver another lacklustre display.

But Madrid were delighted with the outcome, with star defender David Alaba raving about the 34-year-old Benzema's match-winning turn.

"What he's doing this season is incredible," Alaba said after the game. "I can see how hard he works, and he's having the season of his life, he's very focused and is hungry to score goals. He prepares very well for every game, particularly matches like tonight's. I'm delighted to have him as a team-mate."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois spoke of Madrid's "important result" and pinpointed the hat-trick hero, saying: "To go far in the Champions League you need a player like Benzema."

The win at Stamford Bridge will have resonated around Europe, with LaLiga leaders Madrid chasing a 14th European Cup/Champions League triumph this season.

Two early headers from Benzema put Madrid in firm control, before he spurned the chance of a first-half hat-trick when firing wide shortly before the break.

The veteran former Lyon man made up for that miss when he seized on a shocking pass from goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to fire in Madrid's third in the first minute of the second half.

Brazilian midfielder Casemiro said it was important to acknowledge Benzema is going through a special phase in his career.

"Firstly, we've got to talk about Karim’s magic," said Casemiro, quoted on Madrid's official website.

"We simply have to continue to enjoy the player that he is, we appreciate his quality and the player that he is, but many people only see his goals and we see his quality, the type of person he is, and it's extremely important for us that we continue to enjoy having him.

"It was a whole team effort, in terms of the effort, reading the game, knowing how to play, and I think that we understood the game well."

Thibaut Courtois defended Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy after his error gave Real Madrid a two-goal lead in their Champions League quarter-final tie.

Chelsea had rallied after Karim Benzema's sensational quickfire double put Madrid 2-0 up at Stamford Bridge, with Kai Havertz responding shortly before half-time.

But the Blues' hard work was undone almost immediately after the interval, as Mendy's slack pass to Antonio Rudiger invited a challenge from Benzema, who was then able to fire into an open goal to complete his hat-trick.

It was Mendy's first error leading to a goal in the Champions League and only his third across all competitions in two seasons since joining Chelsea.

Although Chelsea had 57.3 per cent of the possession and 20 shots to Madrid's eight, the home side could not hit back again and now face a huge uphill task in the second leg in Spain.

Mendy at least had the sympathy of former Chelsea man Courtois, his opposite number in the Madrid goal.

"The problem if you make a bad pass as a goalkeeper is that there's no one behind, they steal the ball and score," Courtois said.

"He shouldn't be blamed, but a mistake by a goalkeeper is talked about a lot."

As much as 37.5 per cent of the game was played in Madrid's third of the pitch, but Chelsea created chances worth just 1.35 expected goals, even if Courtois would have been more comfortable with the visitors playing further upfield.

"We defended well," he said. "Maybe at times we were too deep and they took advantage of that to create chances. We have to improve on that and move the defensive line a bit higher up.

"We have to make sure we play well in the return leg."

Courtois should find a more supportive crowd in that return leg, having been jeered by the Chelsea fans on Wednesday in his first match back at Stamford Bridge in front of supporters.

The Belgium keeper left Chelsea for Madrid in a €35million transfer in 2018.

"Obviously it's a Champions League game, it's not a friendly," he said of the response.

"I didn't like how my departure from the club was explained, but I think I had really good moments at Stamford Bridge and I've got very fond memories of my time at Chelsea."

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