The return fixture against SC Braga did not create many problems for Real Madrid. With the home advantage on their side, they took all three points and assured themselves of qualification to the next round of the UEFA Champions League.
Vinicius Jr, Rodrygo Goes and Brahim Diaz were all on point for the Merengues as they put three past the Portuguese side.
Speaking to the press after his team’s win and guaranteed berth in the Round of 16, Carlo Ancelotti elaborated on a number of topics including the key performers, injured stars, and the Champions League.
He began by emphasising the importance of the team’s run in the competition so far, saying”
“Real Madrid have done better than others in this competition. It is not so easy to always pass the group stage and in these first four games, we have done well at home and away. We are very happy to be in the round of 16.”
“It’s a special competition for us and Real Madrid have built its history in this competition. Each game is very special and we are not going to rest in the next two because they all have the same requirement: to show our best level,” he added on Real Madrid’s legacy in the competition.
It was a special night for Brahim Diaz who received his second start of the season against Braga. Slotting in for Jude Bellingham in the attacking midfield, he even scored Real Madrid’s opener on the night.
“He has played a game in which he has shown great quality and defensive sacrifice. He has done things very well. In the position in which he has played today, Bellingham usually plays and today he has replaced him very well,” Ancelotti said on the Spanish phenom.
“It may have been unfair to him. It’s obvious that he should have more minutes. His best position is where he played today,” he added on Diaz’s relative lack of minutes.
It was also a memorable game for Ancelotti, who on the night, became the manager with the most wins in the history of the UCL. Speaking on his accomplishments, he said:
“It is a great honour to reach this number of victories in this competition.”
The manager’s attention then shifted to Vinicius Jr who played a big part in Wednesday’s win. The Brazilian racked up a goal and an assist in addition to a staggering seven key passes.
“The first half left some doubts because he could be more effective, but the second half has been spectacular. What he and Rodrygo have done in the second part you have to look at it carefully because they have made spectacular combinations. The counter that the two do, there are not many duos who can do it.”
Ancelotti then elaborated on the other Brazilian who shone brightly against Braga, Rodrygo Goes.
“There are forwards who score in all the matches and others who live on moments. You can only support them and give them confidence. A player of his characteristics before or after will score because he has an extraordinary quality. It’s a matter of time.”
As the manager of Real Madrid, it is close to impossible to do justice to every player in terms of game-time. After all, the names on the bench are no less stars than those who shine on the field.
“I am the coach and I act as a coach. Players have to evaluate this well. I do the job of coaching and the players should not be wrong in this regard,” Ancelotti stressed on the difficult decisions he has to take.
“I put the player on the bench, but not the person. I have an extraordinary relationship with everyone. They respect me a lot and I try to respect them all as people,” he added.
Arda Guler was expected to make his Real Madrid debut last night, but it was not to be as the club are taking the cautious route with him. Ancelotti commented on the Turkish phenom and his expected availability.
“We are being careful with him. He trains with the team after a long injury and will have his minutes when he is at 100%.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga withdrew from the starting lineup due to a late injury issue, with Andriy Lunin taking his place on the field. Speaking about the change in goalkeeper, Ancelotti commented:
“He had discomfort in the warm-up and was not comfortable to play. We put Lunin, who has helped us win this game. He made a decisive stop on the penalty and has played a full game.”
“This means, adding the match of Brahim and that of Lucas Vázquez, that the squad is very healthy and that we can fight in all competitions,” he added.
Finally, the Italian gaffer concluded his press conference by commenting on Gerard Pique’s words about Real Madrid’s 14th UCL title.
“He lives in his world, which is not that of Real Madrid, and I can assure you that there is not a single Real Madrid player who forgets the 14th. It is a Champions League that will be remembered for life.”
Source: Real Madrid website
Official: Real Madrid starting lineup against Napoli | UCL GW 5
Real Madrid are back in the Champions League following their impressive win against Cadiz on the weekend as they host Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu for gameweek five.
They have already secured qualification to the round of 16, and even a point today would secure first place in the group.
With several players still injured, Carlo Ancelotti has opted for his best available starting lineup, with Daniel Carvajal taking responsibility of the captain’s armband at right-back. He will be aided by Ferland Mendy, who starts on the other side.
Meanwhile, in between them, David Alaba returns to the fold as the starting centre-back, partnering Antonio Rudiger. This duo has the responsibility of screening Andriy Lunin, who continues in goal in Kepa and Thibaut Courtois’ absence.
With both Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni out, Toni Kroos gets the chance to play as the holding midfielder for two games in a row. Federico Valverde retains his spot, as well, while Dani Ceballos comes in for the injured Luka Modric in central midfield.
Rodrygo will spearhead the team’s frontline as one of the two twin forwards, while Brahim Diaz gets the nod over Joselu. Jude Bellingham is the final, and arguably the most important piece of the puzzle, playing behind the front-two.
Confirmed Madrid XI: Lunin; Carvajal, Rudiger, Alaba, Mendy; Valverde, Kroos, Ceballos; Bellingham; Diaz, Rodrygo