Skipper Marcelo admitted Real Madrid have been “really, really damaged” by a disappointing season after Karim Benzema’s hat-trick secured a 3-0 LaLiga victory over Athletic Bilbao.
Real occupy third place in the table with five games remaining, a distant 13 points behind champions elect Barcelona and with their Champions League dreams ended in the last 16 by Ajax.
Asked about a lacklustre first-half display against Athletic, Marcelo told LaLiga TV: “It’s complicated at the end of the season when you’re not playing for anything.
“We had to find the motivation but we came here in front of the fans and yes, the first half was difficult. In the second half, it wasn’t quite as difficult for us, but I think we played well.
“It’s not a question of whether the season is over or not, we have to always work when we pull this jersey on. We know it’s been a difficult season – we’re really, really damaged by what’s happened this season, but we have to keep going forward.
“All the players who play for Real Madrid, all the players who don’t play, we all have to do everything for the badge of Real Madrid.”
If Zinedine Zidane’s men were distinctly unimpressive before the break, Benzema ensured they emerged with the points with a devastating display of finishing after it as he took his tally for the season to 30 goals in all competitions.
🏁 FT: Real Madrid C.F. 3-0 Athletic Club⚽ Karim Benzema 47′, 76′, 90’#Emirates | #HalaMadrid
He headed them in front from Marco Asensio’s inviting 47th-minute cross and doubled his tally from Luka Modric’s corner with 14 minutes remaining before completing his treble in stoppage time with Bilbao keeper Iago Herrerin in no man’s land.
Marcelo said: “We all know that Karim has got so much quality. What he brings to the club, scoring goals or not, he’s one of the leaders of this team and the truth is I’m very happy for him to score the hat-trick.
“But he’ll be happier with the win than with the hat-trick.”
Athletic gave as good as they got before the break without troubling Real keeper Keylor Navas unduly but were ultimately able to keep Benzema at bay.
— Athletic Club (@Athletic_en) April 21, 2019
Skipper Iker Muniain said: “In the first half it was very equal, We had the odd chance that we weren’t able to finish off, and then in the second half we were close to scoring, but we didn’t score and they hit us on the break.
“They went 1-0 up too quickly and that meant we were always playing from behind. We were really determined to get a result from this game but we failed.
“We knew they weren’t playing for anything but we also know the quality they’ve got, the players they’ve got. Any of these players can score and make the difference in a game.
“Maybe if things had worked out differently before that first goal, it would have been a different game.”