Carlo Ancelotti says Karim Benzema is back in “optimal form” and still one of the best in the world as the forward scored a hat-trick to lead Real Madrid to a 4-0 win over Barcelona in the Copa del Rey final.
Vinicius Jr opened the scoring before half-time at the Camp Nou and Benzema scored three times in 30 minutes to overturn a 1-0 first-leg deficit to Barca and secure Madrid’s place in the final against Osasuna on 6 May.
– Stream on ESPN+: La Liga, Bundesliga, more (US)
– Marsden: Benzema’s return bodes well for Madrid
It was Benzema’s second hat-trick after scoring three times in Madrid’s 6-0 La Liga win over Real Valladolid on Sunday, making it 19 goals in all competitions since the World Cup.
“Work [Benzema] The international break helped a lot,” Ancelotti said in his post-match press conference on Wednesday. “He’s found his best again and the quality he has, the physicality that supports that quality, makes the difference.”
Benzema faced criticism earlier this season as a series of muscle injuries left him struggling to recapture the form that saw him win the 2022 Ballon d’Or.
“Why not?” Asked if 35-year-old Benzema had a chance to retain the award, Ancelotti said. “He’s still one of the best players in the world — not a forward, but a player — right now, no doubt. When he’s healthy, he makes the difference.”
Madrid’s 4-0 win at the Camp Nou was the team’s best result at Barcelona in 60 years and followed three previous defeats. the best the meeting
“The boiler has reached the right temperature again,” Ancelotti said, when asked if he was proud of the performance. “It’s the most important moment of the season and when we’re at the right temperature, we’re good.
“The team delivered in every sense: defensively, offensively, clinically up front. It was the perfect game.”
Barcelona moved 12 points clear at the top of La Liga, with Madrid securing a point in the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg. The game often threatened to break out, with Vinicius having to be restrained by teammates before being substituted late on.
“In a game like that, it can happen,” Ancelotti said. “I took him off because it didn’t make sense to bring him on. He had one yellow card and with another yellow card he would have missed the final. We didn’t want to take the risk.
“Maybe the opposing players are looking [Vinicius]”said goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. “They say something, it happens on the pitch, they are looking for a red card. We need the best Vinny, like we got today.”