As Real Madrid look to claw their way back into the La Liga title race, they will play leaders and eternal rivals Barcelona in a must-win encounter at Spotify Camp Nou on Sunday night.
Los Blancos are already nine points behind Barça in the table and another defeat to the Catalan giants would pretty much end any hopes of defending the league crown as the gap would be widened to 12 points with less than one-third of the season remaining.
Ahead of this vital encounter, manager Carlo Ancelotti addressed the media and spoke about various topics, including his future as well as the importance of the Clasico encounter, among several other things.
During the presser, Ancelotti also continued to stress how important the veteran midfield duo of Toni Kroos and Luka Modric remain to this Real Madrid side.
Of late, there have been doubts about whether the ageing midfielders can keep on playing together, but the Italian has no doubt about their quality and importance to his team, as he said: “I am surprised when people doubt Modric and Kroos because they are the best.”
On his future and facing Barcelona
Talking about there being any nerves ahead of the game, the manager added: “I think we have to enjoy the moment and enjoy being protagonists in an important match. You can only win if you can bring out the best in all aspects.”
Ancelotti’s future at Real Madrid has also been a major topic of speculation recently, with reports suggesting that the club will axe him if he does not win any major trophies. Addressing those claims, he said:
“My evaluation is something that the club has to do and not me. I have already said that I would like to stay for the rest of my life but I know that this is impossible. Whatever happens, the club will decide at the end of the season.
“My thought is to continue and what the club decides will be what counts. If they want me, I will enjoy it. If not, I will enjoy it for as long as I have left. I will be grateful for life”.
On the situation that Real Madrid find themselves in currently in their season in all competitions, he added: “We have a disadvantage in the league and in the cup. Not in the Champions League. We’re only thinking about reducing the points tomorrow against Barcelona.”
On facing Barcelona and there being some fear heading into such a pivotal clash, the manager added:
“We have to see Barça as a lion, not as a cat. If we see them as a cat, it seems like we are going to a party. And no, we are going to play against a great team and it’s an important game. In these games, there’s always fear, of course, but it’s normal. It’s fear, nerves… For me, the two hours before the game are the worst.”
The Clasico earlier this month in Copa del Rey saw Real Madrid lose 1-0 with Barcelona putting up a solid defensive performance. When asked if he expects tomorrow’s game to pan out in a similar manner, Ancelotti replied:
“It’s very difficult to say what tomorrow’s game will be because each one has its own history. Barcelona defended a lot in the cup game, it’s true, but this one could be different depending on what happens. If we score, if they score.”
“Tomorrow we will play offensively and without risk,” he added when asked if Real Madrid will play on the attack in search of a win.
The battle between Vinicius and Ronald Araujo
Talking about the duel between Vinicius Jr and Ronald Araujo that has dominated the recent El Clasico matches, Ancelotti joked that he would consider deploying the Brazilian on the right flank to avoid the battle, before stating that the forward’s movement will be important.
“Vinicius has always had difficulty with Araujo but he always tries. I’m thinking of putting him on the right,” he joked.
“Obviously I’m not serious about putting Vinicius on the right but mobility is important and not having a reference point and more movement is tougher for the opposition,” the manager went on to add.
He also added that the Merengues have tactical plans to deal with Araujo, saying: “We have the plan. We have made all the evaluations, of course.”
With there being a lot of talk about how Araujo is currently one of the best defenders in the world, Ancelotti went on to state that he thinks Eder Militao is right up there while also stating that Vinicius was one of the best attackers in the game currently.
“I may lose credibility if I say Vinicius and Militão are the best striker and defender in the world respectively but it’s the truth. I am honest. Militão lacks nothing. The only flaw he has is that he is not always 100% focused. Another is that he is not so handsome,” he said.
Ancelotti talked about the competition for places in midfield between Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni, saying: “Camavinga is doing very well as Tchouaméni did well and both have replaced a legend like Casemiro very well. With the two of them, Real Madrid can have a very good future.”
On the team’s form heading into the game, the Real Madrid boss said: “From January 22 until now, the team has done very well. We are in a good moment, we are very motivated and excited.
“The physical data is very good and in the technical and tactical aspect we have improved a lot, we are better in defense. I think we can do very well.”
Ancelotti also discussed the UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw, which saw Real Madrid get Chelsea once again. The first leg will be played at the Bernabeu and the second leg away at Stamford Bridge, with reports suggesting that Real Madrid officials were unhappy about it.
“I don’t know if it will be more difficult than last year. There is no away goal count and that doesn’t change much. I think the Bernabéu will help us in the first leg,” Ancelotti said.
Source: Real Madrid Twitter
Ancelotti considering playing a makeshift centre-back pairing for Real Madrid against Valencia – report
Real Madrid will take on Valencia on Saturday, looking to maintain their solid lead at the top of the league table.
The Spanish giants are leading the standing with a six-point lead over Girona. A win against Valencia could help them solidify their position at the top while potentially opening up an opportunity to extend the lead to more than six points.
Heading into this game, though, Carlo Ancelotti is facing multiple setbacks, especially in the defensive unit, with Eder Militao, David Alaba and Thibaut Courtois still missing due to injuries.
This will once again put pressure on Ancelotti, as far as the team selection is concerned.
Rudiger & Tchouameni to partner at centre-back vs Valencia
Fortunately for the Real Madrid coach, much of his experimentations this season have worked, including Aurelien Tchouameni’s supreme performances at centre-back.
With that in mind, Diario AS reports Ancelotti is considering playing a makeshift central defensive pair against Valencia, comprising Antonio Rudiger and Tchouameni.
This is not the first time the young Frenchman will have to accompany Rudiger at centre-back. He did so earlier in the year when Real Madrid took on RCD Mallorca.
Interestingly, Real Madrid were able to retain a clean sheet, with Rudiger scoring the winning goal, in a narrow 1-0 victory.
What are Ancelotti’s other options?
Ancelotti will be hoping for a similar outcome this time around. However, it must be noted that the Italian will be boosted by the return of Dani Carvajal from suspension.
The veteran Spaniard can be an option at centre-back. But given the way how Tchouameni has impressed onlookers with his performances at centre-back, there is very little reason why he shouldn’t continue in the position.
Tchouameni has even been compared to Javier Mascherano by former Spanish coach Roberto Moreno.
Other than Carvajal, though, Nacho Fernandez is another option for Ancelotti. But the veteran defender is suffering with discomfort and Ancelotti has no plans to risk it.