All eyes on Real forwards after Benzema criticism of Vinicius revealed

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Real Madrid - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - October 24, 2020 Real Madrid's Karim Benzema during the warm up before the match REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - After a week in which Karim Benzema's damning opinion of strike partner Vinicius Jr was unwittingly revealed, Real Madrid's forwards will be hoping to present a united front when they host Huesca in La Liga on Saturday.

Benzema was caught on camera by French television programme Telefoot speaking to defender Ferland Mendy about Vinicius during the halftime break in Tuesday's 2-2 draw at Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Champions League.

With Vinicius standing only metres away in the tunnel, Benzema whispered to compatriot Mendy in French "Don't pass to him, he is playing against us", blasting his strike partner's display in the first half as his side were trailing 1-0.

Benzema has not responded to the footage but he did share a post on Twitter by his former agent Karim Djaziri criticising Telefoot for "dishonestly looking for controversy".

Mendy and Vinicius both play on the left hand side but the defender combined little with the Brazilian winger after his conversation with Benzema, finding him only three times in the second half.

Madrid later went 2-0 down but salvaged a draw thanks to late strikes from Benzema and Casemiro, although the result barely masked another poor display after they had looked to have turned a corner with last week's 3-1 win over Barcelona.

Key to Madrid's stuttering form this season has been the form of their forwards. Benzema scored 27 times in all competition last season but only has two goals this term.

Vinicius only scored five times last season and although he is well on the way to bettering that tally, with three goals already this campaign, he still tends to panic inside the area.

Also, as Benzema explained to Mendy, he often appears to be on a different page to his team mates.

While coach Zinedine Zidane might be keen to show there is no ill-feeling between the two forwards, he could also give Eden Hazard a first start of the season in the league after the Belgian returned from a muscle injury to come off the bench against Gladbach.

Real are second in La Liga, one point behind surprise early leaders Real Sociedad, who visit Celta Vigo on Sunday.

Barcelona are in the unfamiliar position of 12th in the standings but have regained confidence after the 'Clasico' defeat by beating Juventus 2-0 on Wednesday in a performance coach Ronald Koeman hailed as their best yet this season.

Koeman's side visit Alaves looking to earn a first league win in four games, while Atletico Madrid, the only unbeaten side in the division, play away to Osasuna.

(Reporting by Richard Martin; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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