On their road to redemption, Real Madrid will lock horns with a familiar foe tomorrow as they square off against Atletico Madrid on home soil.
After recently being knocked out by Diego Simeone’s men in the Copa del Rey, Real Madrid will not only have a point to prove; but also a chance to solidify their spot as league leaders with Girona breathing down their necks.
Speaking in the pre-match press conference (h/t Madrid Xtra) Ancelotti threw in his thoughts on the match-up and the current happenings of Real Madrid.
Acknowledging Santiago Bernabeu as their 12th man, Ancelotti expressed: “This is the 3rd time we will face Atletico Madrid. It will be a very important game. It will be a great show at the Bernabéu tomorrow. Our stadium will help us.”
Rudiger sustained a thigh injury during the midweek victory over Getafe but has been given the medical green light for the upcoming encounter.
Commenting on his situation, Ancelotti said, “He is better now but we will evaluate him tomorrow. He will be in the squad.”
“I will decide tomorrow if Rüdiger plays or not.”
Having availed Eduardo Camavinga’s services in nearly all positions on the pitch, Ancelotti expressed that he could be useful even at center-back.
The Italian stated: “Camavinga is an option at center-back. He’s very fast and wins duels. He, Carvajal, and Mendy are options and I think they would do very well.”
On the subject of defenders, Ancelotti further stated, “We thought Tchouaméni could play as a center-back after Alaba’s injury. He’s an option in case of emergency. Militão will be back before the end of the season, late March or April.”
Barcelona president Joan Laporta recently took a jibe at Real Madrid for meddling with the investigation of the Negreira case.
After it was reported that Real Madrid would not acknowledge the statements, Ancelotti has also gone down the high route by paying no heed to the accusations.
“I won’t go down to this level. Don’t ask again,” he straightforwardly remarked.
“I am a professional. As a professional, I do not want to go down to this level out of respect for Spanish football,” the Italian added.
The rotation between Andriy Lunin and Kepa Arrizabalaga has been a subject of great intrigue throughout the season amid Thibaut Courtois’ absence.
When asked to name who would start, Ancelotti, as usual, kept his cards close to his chest, “Their rotation helps themselves. No one is perfect, this keeps the competition high. I won’t say who plays tomorrow,” he mentioned.
However, the four-time Champions League winner has not just kept fans in the dark as neither player knows who is set to receive the nod. “Lunin and Kepa don’t know who will play tomorrow. I think rotating the two of them is a good thing for them.”
Praising tomorrow’s opposition coach, Ancelotti said: “Simeone is one of the toughest rivals I have ever faced.”
The 64-year-old was asked about Toni Kroos, to which he replied: “His qualities are important for our gameplay. He’s important but this doesn’t mean the other midfielders are not. Luka Modrić played an incredible and perfect game against Getafe while Kroos didn’t play.”
At the age of 38, Luka Modric is not getting any younger, which has prompted Ancelotti to place him on the bench frequently.
When questioned about his placement among the substitutes, Ancelotti humbly acknowledged that it is not something he eagerly does considering the Croatian legend’s status.
“It’s very difficult to leave such a legend on the bench. I can only say thank you Luka for everything he has done during my time here. I’m really affected by this. It’s so difficult.”
After scoring a brace against Getafe to seal all three points, there have been murmurs of Joselu featuring in the starting XI against Atletico Madrid.
Ancelotti recognized the possibility, mentioning: “We are considering it because we don’t have tall players.”
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.