Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has defended his team for their performances in what has been a challenging pre-season.
Los Blancos picked up their first win of the summer on Wednesday, when they beat Fenerbache 5-3 in an entertaining encounter. The France striker appears to be hitting form at the right time, grabbing a hat-trick in the showdown at the Allianz Arena in Germany.
Speaking after the game, Benzema said there shouldn't be much stock placed in these pre-season matches, per Juan Ignacio Garcia-Ochoa of Marca:
"Let me tell you something, this is called pre-season. Pre-season is about getting to a high level for when the league starts. We're working a lot on a physical level and on a tactical level.
"Criticism is normal after losing a derby and conceding seven, but that's in the past and we need to keep working. I urge the fans to believe in us because we need them. I have a good feeling about this season. I feel good on an individual level too, although I still need more training sessions."
Benzema was also asked about Madrid's reported interest in Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba but refused to be drawn on it. "I can't talk about that," he said. "We have a great team, and we're focused on working."
The Spanish Football Podcast commented on what was an improved performance from Los Blancos on Wednesday although picked up on some areas of weakness too:
Spanish football journalist Euan McTear also noted the defensive issues that have been hampering the side in recent outings:
Although pre-season is for conditioning ahead of the competitive matches, the manner in which Madrid have played means their fans have every right to be worried ahead of the new campaign.
After their struggles both domestically and in the UEFA Champions League in 2018-19, there's an onus on Zinedine Zidane's side to bounce back. The fact that Madrid have spent huge money on the likes of Eden Hazard, Luka Jovic and Ferland Mendy will only increase the pressure to perform.
It will be intriguing to see what role Benzema has to play in the coming season following some high-profile forward acquisitions. After all, not only does he look sharp in pre-season, but in the disappointing previous campaign, he was the standout man for the La Liga giants.
Eleven Sports recently looked back on what has been a brilliant 10 years at the Santiago Bernabeu for Benzema:
Madrid will no doubt see Jovic as the long-term successor to the Frenchman. He showed at Eintracht Frankfurt last term that he is a multifaceted footballer capable of scoring goals on a frequents basis.
However, Zidane utilised Benzema regularly during his first spell in charge of Madrid, and you sense he will call on him frequently next season. It means the 31-year-old will have a big role to play if Madrid are going to turn things around.