Real Madrid came back from two goals down to defeat Villarreal 3-2 away from home to secure a place in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey.
Coming into the game on the back of the Spanish Super Cup defeat to Barcelona, Carlo Ancelotti’s men looked in shambles in the first half as Etienne Capoue and Samuel Chukwueze gave Villarreal a two-goal lead heading into half-time.
However, Los Blancos were woken up from their slumber after the break as Vinicius Jr. pulled a goal back before Eder Militao leveled things up. Finally, Dani Ceballos scored the winner in the 86th minute to help Real Madrid book a place in the quarter-finals.
Speaking after the match, manager Ancelotti expressed his happiness at the outcome of the game but admitted that his team were well below par in the first half. Below are the snippets from his interaction with the media after the match.
On the first-half performance: “I was really angry at half-time and I decided to take a risk and press high up. We weren’t being forceful enough in our duels and I told them to wake up, there was still time to come back. They definitely woke up. It wasn’t a good first half and we can’t be playing like that.”
On the second half: “In the second period, it was an incredible reaction, as it always is. This club never gives up but we can’t wait until near the end of the game to react.”
On the team’s personality: “We played a very poor first half and quite an unexpected second because it’s difficult to switch the dynamic like that after the first half we saw. The team showed great personality to turn things around. The second half is fantastic for our confidence. We didn’t give up and I’m sure you guys have had to change your articles.”
On Dani Ceballos and Marco Asensio: “They really changed the game. They brought more quality and energy to the pitch. They were absolutely key in turning the score and the tie around.”
On Eduardo Camavinga: “He had more energy and showed more character in the second half. He’s learning that he has to look after himself, it was a complete performance from him.”
On taking off Rodrygo: “He had a slight muscle strain and I decided not to risk him. He didn’t acknowledge me because I think he forgot, I don’t think it’s a big deal.”
On the clash between Vinicius Junior and Pepe Reina: “It was nothing. He was a bit wound up with Vini Jr., that’s all. I have a good relationship with him. What I saw, was that Vini Jr. got kicked a lot, like he does every game.”
Source: Real Madrid official website
Key Real Madrid defender still not 100% fit ahead of Club World Cup semi-final – report
Carlo Ancelotti heads into the FIFA Club World Cup in a pressure cooker situation. The pressure on the manager’s shoulders is immense, for his job could be on the line after Real Madrid’s poor run of form.
The injury situation does not favour the Italian tactician either. Lucas Vazquez, Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema, Eder Militao and even Thibaut Courtois are out of the semi-final against Al Ahly, leaving him very few options to play with.
According to reports from Jorge C Picon, David Alaba too is not completely fit yet. The Austrian International was given the medical all-clear and entered the squad for Real Madrid’s game against Mallorca, yet started on the bench as he was not at 100%, and that remains the case ahead of tonight’s clash.
The report, however, adds that his mere inclusion in the squad comes as a breather for Ancelotti. Alaba is highly valued by the technical staff, not only for his reading of the game on the field but also for his leadership.
The defender has already missed seven games for Los Blancos since sustaining a muscular injury against Villarreal at La Ceramica. He did indeed come off the bench for under half an hour against Mallorca, but will likely not be risked to start on Thursday.
In his absence, Nacho Fernandez and Antonio Rudiger are expected to take centre stage in defence in Morocco. Eduardo Camavinga, meanwhile, could start as left-back again.
Alaba has played 17 games for Los Blancos this season and was one of the players with the most minutes until his injury. In his league campaign so far, he has scored one goal and provided three assists while also averaging a key pass every ninety minutes.
It remains to be seen if the Austrian recovers completely in time for the Club World Cup final should the European Champions make it. As it stands, using a cautious approach is in Real Madrid’s best interest.