'Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo is what I prefer' – Zidane committed to Madrid front three

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The Blancos boss has shuffled his line-up at times this season, but the Frenchman insists that a star-studded combination is his best option in attack

Zinedine Zidane insists playing all-star forward line Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo together gives Real Madrid the best chance of glory this season.

The acclaimed 'BBC' trio lined up as Madrid came from behind to secure a 3-1 win at Napoli on Tuesday, progressing to the quarter-finals of the Champions League by a 6-2 aggregate margin.

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However, none of them were on the scoresheet and their status at the Santiago Bernabeu has come under threat this season.

Four-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo increasingly appears to be more at home in central areas as opposed to out on the flank, while Bale endured a lengthy spell on the sidelines following ankle tendon surgery.

The Wales star's absence led Zidane to experiment with different starting formations – 4-4-2 proving more successful than one deploying three centre-backs.

Meanwhile, there have been increasing calls for Alvaro Morata to replace Benzema as a starting striker, with the Frenchman only netting three goals in La Liga since the turn of the year.

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"Bale, Benzema and Ronaldo could play with the four in midfield, but I prefer with three up front," said Zidane ahead of Sunday's La Liga match with Real Betis, where the issue of Madrid's best starting formation was repeatedly raised.

"Of course, Bale can drop into the midfield four, but I prefer the three up front. What do you [the reporter] prefer, why?

"I think Gareth offers more up front with Benzema and Ronaldo. Gareth on the left, Ronaldo on the right and Karim Benzema up front – that's how I like to see my front three.

"With the three up front we create a lot of chances, with three [midfield] players tucked in behind.

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"We played very well in Eibar [last weekend's 4-1 win] with a 4-2-3-1 formation, or 4-4-2.

"It depends. With one up front, two up front or four in the middle we can change our formation and switch. Everyone has a right to have their own opinion.

"You may feel we play better with four men across the middle.

"If all three [Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo] are fit I have all three playing up front."

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Despite Zidane mixing up his tactical approach over recent months, he has still been reluctant to deploy playmakers Isco and James Rodriguez in tandem.

Spain international Isco was linked with a move to Manchester City this week, but his coach would not rule out a future for both players at the Bernabeu.

He said: "I'm not going to talk about next season. Yes, they are compatible because they are two excellent footballers, so of course they can play together."

Injury plagued full-back Fabio Coentrao will not feature once more against Betis, with Zidane reporting a niggle, although Morata is over an injury scare suffered during training.

"It was a knock, a blow – he'll be in the squad. Nothing serious, he'll be with us on Sunday," Zidane explained.

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