Heading into the first El Clasico of the season, Barcelona are running just one point behind Real Madrid in La Liga points table, having won seven games out of ten, and losing none.
Girona are also keeping up with the Spanish giants, and could give both of them a freight of trouble, but that is for the future as the Barça get ready to host Real Madrid at the Olympic Saint Montjuic.
Ahead of the clash, Carlo Ancelotti spoke to the media as part of his pre-game press conference.
He was firstly asked about Jude Bellingham, who picked up a knock against SC Braga in the Champions League. The Englishman confirmed his presence for the game, though, and the same was doubled down by the Italian manager, as relayed by MARCA.
“Tomorrow, he will play. He is fine. He has recovered well. I don’t think I have to explain to him about El Clasico everyone knows very well what it is. It is one of the most important matches in the world.”
Ancelotti will manage his 250th Real Madrid game tomorrow, and was excited ahead of it, saying, “We are excited. It is a special atmosphere. It will be the first Clasico of the season, we have come well and are very excited to play a great match.”
“It is an important match, worth three points and it is very useful for the dynamic because it is very important for everyone. But the season is very long. We must be decisive. There are several teams competing as well like Atletico and Girona, and the league will be very competitive until the end.”
“Barcelona are a well-organised team in every sense of the word. They have quality youngsters playing with them and we expect the same usual Barcelona as always.”
Ancelotti also spoke about Barcelona’s youth setup, and the several players who have broken through the team this season, including Fermin Lopez, Lamine Yamal, among others.
“I love them all — Yamal, Fermin, young players with a future. But we also have youngsters with an amazing future, like Arda Guler, Vinicius Jr, Eduardo Camavinga, Aurelien Tchouameni..sometimes we forget that we have very good young players.”
However, the presser quizzed Ancelotti about why Barcelona’s academy manages to incorporate more players into the main team, compared to Madrid.
“It is difficult to answer. Barcelona has had a lot of injuries, and this creates opportunities. Because if many players are injured during the season, you have to call up youth players.”
Luka Modric and Eduardo Camavinga are expected to start on the bench vs Barcelona, but Ancelotti assured that each player wants an explanation for not starting will get one.
“If the players want an explanation, I will give them one. But they are so professional that they will not ask for one if they do not play.”
“His main position is the pivot. He adapts as a full-back or central midfield, but his position is the pivot,” Ancelotti added.
“I started with the young players to see what they could contribute, then we started rotating a bit to keep the team fresh and motivated,” he also said about Kroos.
Daniel Carvajal was on the scoresheet against Sevilla, and Ancelotti was asked about the Spaniard’s ability in the box.
“We forgot in previous years that he is very intelligent in the penalty area and that he finishes very well with his head. I changed his role in set pieces.”
Real Madrid youngster in line for significant minutes against Granada – report
Nico Paz was long hyped as Real Madrid Castilla’s brightest upcoming star. The media constantly kept the spotlight on the young Argentine through pre-season as he made a strong impression under Carlo Ancelotti in preseason.
His breakthrough eventually arrived, courtesy of Real Madrid’s injury crisis. He has now made two appearances for the team in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League and even recorded his first goal for the club earlier this week against Napoli.
Taking his chances
As revealed by AS (h/t The Madrid Zone), Paz has impressed management with his cameo against Napoli and will be called up for Real Madrid’s clash against Granada tomorrow.
In fact, there is a good chance he sees significant game time on the night.
After all, Ancelotti is without the likes of Luka Modric, Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga in the middle of the park.
With Toni Kroos, Dani Ceballos, Federico Valverde, and Jude Bellingham filling the starting spots, Paz serves as the manager’s first-choice backup off the bench.
Paz voices his elation
Paz’s introduction against Napoli changed the texture of the game, and it was only poetic that he got the goal that put Real Madrid ahead again on the night.
Speaking to the media after his special night, the Castilla star did not hold back on his emotions.
“This is a dream. For a moment I didn’t even believe it. Very happy to be able to help the team. I dared. I was in automatic mode, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I hit it and well.”
“This is also a message for the other youth players: it is possible to get there. Ancelotti congratulated me, and the whole staff. They are an incredible group and I want to thank them all,” he added, urging his Castilla teammates to keep pushing.