Much like their previous fixture in Copa del Rey against Villarreal, Real Madrid secured another thrilling comeback victory in the cup competition, defeating neighbours Atletico Madrid 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
Los Blancos were pegged back early in the first period by former striker Alvaro Morata and the Rojiblancos hung on to their lead for a large part of the game until Rodrygo produced a piece of magic to equalise and force the tie into extra time.
With Atletico Madrid losing Stefan Savic to a red card, Carlo Ancelotti’s men capitalised and Karim Benzema scored in the first half of extra time before Vinicius Jr added a wondergoal late on to secure the tickets to the Copa del Rey semi-finals.
Ancelotti addressed the media after the game and here are the excerpts from his post-match press conference.
On the key behind the win: “The key is that there has been more commitment from everyone. The bench is helping us a lot and this stage of the season requires a bench where everyone can contribute. We have too many games.”
On the game: “Today was a very tough and competitive game against a very strong opponent. They were better in the first half and the second half was very good from our side and we put in as much energy as we could. A play of individual quality allowed us to level the tie and the support of our fans put us well on track for extra time.”
On what changed at half-time: “I was very angry against Villarreal at half-time, but not today. The team didn’t play well in the first half, but we had the resources to improve. I changed Luka’s position by putting him higher up, but more than a change of strategy it was a mental change after the break.”
“The changes gave us more energy and quality up front. It’s very difficult to understand how a team plays so badly in the first half and so well in the second. It’s difficult to explain.”
On Vinicius Jr: “He played well. He was very excited and looking forward to playing in front of his home fans. He played a very good game, fighting until the end. His goal was the reward for a lot of hard work and what happened before the game was unfortunate, but he was focused on the game.”
On Rodrygo: “His Achilles tendon was bothering him and I substituted him. The goal he scored was fantastic, with his quality. What is very complicated he makes very simple. He is a very important player for us.”
On Savic’s red card: “I don’t remember Ceballos’ play, but Savic’s seemed clear to me. Atlético played very well and in a different way than usual. They handled the ball well in the first half and it’s normal that it’s upsetting to lose after a game in which they played well.”
On the demanding fixture schedule: “It is too demanding and with too many games, but it is what it is and you have to face it in the best possible way. It doesn’t allow you to get players back to 100% and it causes injuries.
“We have to look to the youth team. Today Mario Martín played, who is a young prospect, and there are others who can also help us and do well.”
On the form of Luka Modric and Toni Kroos: “Leaving Kroos and Modric on the bench is difficult for me, but also having players on the bench who are doing very well like Ceballos and Asensio. It’s a transition, but with players of this level it’s complicated.”
On Dani Ceballos’ renewal: “I don’t go into this. The club knows very well what I think. He is contributing a lot.”
Source: Real Madrid official website
UFC Champion to kick off Real Madrid vs Sevilla, sends message to Mbappe: “Lucky to play for the best club in the world”
Coming on the back of his triumph at UFC, Featherweight champion Ilia Topuria has announced he will take honorary kick-off in the upcoming Real Madrid vs Sevilla in La Liga this weekend.
Topuria confirmed this in a recent press conference in the Spanish capital this midweek.
A self-proclaimed Madridista, Topuria expressed his deep connection with the club and even sent a message to Kylian Mbappe, who is widely expected to join the club on a free transfer this summer.
Ilia Topuria: A hardcore Madridista
Ilia Topuria did not hold back his affection for Real Madrid, stating, “For me, the team that represents the values of Spain the most is Real Madrid.”
The Georgian-Spaniard UFC champion went on to confirm that he will meet Florentino Perez on Sunday and take the kick-off.
“I’m going to meet Florentino Perez on Sunday and take the kick-off,” he said (h/t Mundo Deportivo).
Although born in Germany, Topuria made Spain proud last Saturday when he beat Alexander Volkanovski in the second round. In the process, he became the first fighter from Spain to capture a UFC belt.
Topuria’s triumph has granted him overnight success in Spain, with the 27-year-old even becoming a cultural icon for many.
Topuria’s message for Mbappe
Other than professing his love for Real Madrid, Ilia Topuria also had a message for Mbappe.
When asked about the Frenchman potentially joining Real Madrid this summer, he said, “Welcome. He’s lucky to play for the best club in the world.”
Real Madrid, for their part, also congratulated Topuria on his triumph. “Congratulations on your historic triumph for Spanish sport, Ilia Topuria. We are proud that a great Real Madrid fan like you becomes UFC world champion,” the club posted on X.
Real Madrid fans, meanwhile, will be excited to witness Topuria taking the honorary kickoff as Los Blancos take on Sevilla this weekend, with three crucial points on the line.