It was a quick hat trick for Karim Benzema, and a big win for Real Madrid ahead of the last “clasico” of the season.
Benzema scored his three goals in a seven-minute span as Madrid crushed Valladolid 6-0 in the Spanish league on Sunday, boosting the team’s morale before it faces Barcelona in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey.
“We will go to Barcelona with a lot of confidence after today’s game,” Madrid defender David Alaba said. “We know it’s going to be a different game, it will be tough, but we want to go there and try to get the victory.”
Madrid will travel to Barcelona needing to reverse on Wednesday a 1-0 first-leg loss from the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
Coach Carlo Ancelotti used Benzema and several other regular starters against Valladolid despite Madrid’s upcoming visit to the Camp Nou.
Rodrygo, Marco Asensio and Lucas Vázquez also scored for second-place Madrid, which now trails leader Barcelona by 12 points in the league after the Catalan club won at last-place Elche on Saturday. Madrid maintained its gap to third-place Atletico Madrid at five points.
Benzema, who hadn’t scored in the league since February, netted his first goal with a close-range header after a cross by Vinícius Júnior in the 29th minute. The Frenchman added another goal with a shot from outside the area in the 32nd, and got his third with a volley with his back to the net in the 36th.
“When we have Benzema playing at his best level, everything is easier,” Ancelotti said.
Benzema was replaced by Eden Hazard to get some rest in the 65th, earning a loud ovation from fans at the Bernabéu.
Rodrygo had opened the scoring for Madrid with a low shot from inside the area in the 22nd after a buildup that started with Eduardo Camavinga, who improvised as a left back because of a suspension to Nacho Fernández and injuries to Antonio Rüdiger and Ferland Mendy.
Asensio scored the fifth goal with a left-footed shot from inside the box in the 73rd and Vázquez — in his 300th match with Madrid — got the sixth in stoppage time after a pass by Hazard.
Alaba, who had been injured in the game against Liverpool in the Champions League, was back in the Madrid squad. Vázquez played as a right back in place of Dani Carvajal following Carvajal’s stint with Spain’s national team. Midfielders Luka Modric and Federico Valverde started on the bench to get some rest ahead of the Copa semifinals.
Madrid hasn’t won the Copa since 2014. It lost 2-1 to Barcelona at the Camp Nou in a league game before the international break.
“There is no doubt that we are 100% prepared,” Ancelotti said about the Copa game against Barcelona. “Our only thought will be to get the victory.”
Valladolid remains without a league win against Madrid since 2008, and without a league victory at the Bernabéu since 2000.
The 16th-place team, owned by former Brazil striker Ronaldo, is one point from the relegation zone. It has won only one of its last seven league games.
ATLETICO WINS LATE
Ángel Correa scored in the 86th as Atletico beat Real Betis 1-0 at home to strengthen its hold on third place.
The result extended Atletico’s unbeaten streak to 11 matches. It is six points ahead of fourth-place Real Sociedad and nine points in front of fifth-place Betis.
Diego Simeone’s Atletico has won six of its last seven league matches, including four in a row.
Manuel Pellegrini’s Betis has only one win in its last six games in all competitions.
VILLARREAL IN CONTENTION
Villarreal moved closer to a Champions League place by defeating Sociedad 2-0 at home with goals by Dani Parejo and Nicolas Jackson toward the end of the match.
It was the second straight win for sixth-place Villarreal, which is four points behind Sociedad and one behind Betis.
Struggling Sociedad has only one win in its last eight matches in all competitions.
Celta Vigo twice relinquished a lead and saw an attempt by striker Iago Aspas hit the woodwork deep into stoppage time in a disappointing 2-2 draw against relegation-threatened Almeria at home.
Almeria, sitting in 18th place, has won once in its last eight league games. Tenth-place Celta had won three of its last four matches.