Karim Benzema hailed by team-mates after Chelsea clash hat-trick

Real Madrid all-time scorer 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.

The French frontman Karim Benzema hit all three of his side’s goals in their 3-1 victory at Chelsea Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, the first leg of a quarter-final tie over which Madrid now has strong strength.

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, Real Madrid lost without their talisman and was thumped 4-0 in El Clasico.

Chelsea manager 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 lackluster display.

But Real Madrid was 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,” David 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 I’m delighted to have him as a teammate.”

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.

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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.”

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