Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti is delighted by the fact that troubled forward Eden Hazard appears to finally be stepping up for the squad. Even though Karim Benzema remains to be the big star of Los Blancos' front line, the Italian coach is happy that the Belgian is now able to contribute even though he is being forced to play on the right wing, which is not his natural position.

On Wednesday night, Real Madrid travelled to San Mames to face Athletic Club Bilbao in their final match of the year. The club has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak, with as many as nine players testing positive. On top of that, Casemiro is suspended, while Dani Carvajal and Dani Ceballos are both sidelined due to injuries.

However, such is the depth of the Real Madrid squad that they were still able to field a superior squad against Athletic. Benzema was the star of the show, sealing the 2-1 victory in less than ten minutes by scoring a brace within the opening seven minutes of the match.

As expected, Vinicius played an important role linking up with Benzema on the left side, but Hazard also impressed Ancelotti. With Gareth Bale, Marco Asensio and Rodrygo Goes all down with Covid-19, the Belgian covered the right side.

"I agree, Hazard is back. Hazard has done well, he fought hard," said Ancelotti with conviction as he spoke to the press after the match. "The difference is to defend, they [Hazard and Vinicius] understand well what the team has to do in the defensive phase," he added, as quoted by Marca.

Real Madrid will now have the opportunity to regroup as La Liga takes a short winter break. Ancelotti will be hoping that no other players become infected with the novel coronavirus as they await for others to recover.

"Today we have had two or three that are already negative. They haven't had symptoms and they will all be ready," he said, while explaining that he is not yet aware which players have recovered.

Only Luka Modric was confirmed to have tested negative on Friday, after returning a positive test last Wednesday. However, he has not returned to training as he had a fever and had been feeling tired.

The victory against Athletic Club is crucial for Real Madrid, who needed to cushion their lead at the top of the La Liga table as they navigate through the Covid-19 outbreak. They are now eight points clear of second-placed Sevilla as we head into the second half of the season.

"It was a complete performance, despite using a team that wasn't used to playing in recent times. Nacho, Hazard, Fede, Camavinga... they all played a great game and showed great commitment," concluded Ancelotti.

Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard of Real Madrid Angel Martinez/Getty Images