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Benzema crucial for Madrid - Zidane

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema may be "more important than ever" after continuing his goalscoring form, according to coach Zinedine Zidane.

The Frenchman opened the scoring in Madrid's 3-0 win over Villarreal on Wednesday for his fourth goal in as many La Liga games.

Benzema has taken his league tally to 23 this season and, with star Cristiano Ronaldo potentially sidelined due to injury, his importance late in the campaign could be crucial to Madrid's title chances.

Zidane praised his team as a whole but said the 28-year-old could be set for a key role in the closing stages of the season.

"He is a very important player, perhaps he is more important than ever. He does an excellent job," he said.

"He scores, assists, and helps everyone play better.

"The forwards are doing a fantastic job, as are the midfielders and defenders. They all did very well, including those who came off the bench."

Benzema set up Lucas Vazquez for Madrid's second goal at the Santiago Bernabeu before Luka Modric added a third.

Zidane acknowledged his striker was tired, but nothing more, at the end of the match.

"For Karim it is normal that he has ended up fatigued. His work both in attack and defence has been great," he said.

"He ended up being fatigued but he is fine."