Real Madrid head coach Julen Lopetegui has backed Karim Benzema to challenge for the Pichichi top goal scorer award this season following his explosive start to 2018-19. Benzema took his tally to four goals in three LaLiga games with a brace in Saturday's 4-1 win over Leganés at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Benzema "has always been a great player"
The 30-year-old, who only scored five times in the league in the whole of last season, appears to be flourishing in front of goal following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus. And Lopetegui sees no reason why the striker cannot aim for 30 goals or more and mount a challenge to finish as the division's top goalscorer.
"Why not?" Lopetegui said when asked about Benzema's chances. "Why shouldn't he finish with 30 or 40 goals? The most important thing is the team and goals are the work of the whole team. Benzema is a great player and always has been. What he's doing is credit to him. He's happy and is helping the team, and it'll stay like this."
Madrid's win saw Thibaut Courtois make his debut, the Belgium international having been preferred to Keylor Navas, who was named UEFA's Champions League Goalkeeper of the Season for 2017-18 last week. Lopetegui says there is a plan in place for his keepers for the coming months but refused to state who will be the regular number one.
Courtois handed debut
"I didn't give any roadmap, but we knew he was going to play this match and I won't say any more," Lopetegui said of Courtois. "We have three great goalkeepers and we'll try to find the best solutions. We decided that Courtois would play this time, but we have excellent options. Keylor Navas is our player and had a great game against Girona, before being named the best goalkeeper by UEFA. We'll see how it goes, with the decision to be made on the pitch. We do, though, have an idea of what we'll do."