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Real Madrid must keep a "cool head" to win El Clásico

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Says Ancelotti.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

While all around him are losing their heads, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti is staying calm. The man whose very future depends on the outcome of Sunday's Clasico, according to Marca, seems to be the only man who is keeping his head.

The Italian was subject of a report saying he will lose his job if he suffers defeat to Luis Enrique and his Barcelona side at the Camp, and was subject of whistles from the Bernabeu stands during last Sunday's victory over Levante just days after president Florentino Perez backed his man and rubbished those reports in Marca.

Ancelotti has never been one for panic, and that's why he's perceived by plenty as the best fit for Madrid. During the highs of Sergio Ramos's stoppage-time equaliser against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final he stayed cool while assistant Zinedine Zidane and company raced towards the defender in celebration.

Just as he stays cool during the highs, he is trying to stay cool during the lows. Ancelotti faces arguably his biggest game as Madrid boss, Lisbon aside, at the Camp Nou and although Perez said his coach will not be sacked if Madrid lose in Catalonia, the result will not look favourable when the pair meet to discuss where to go next in the summer.

Ancelotti faced the press, of whom plenty have had the knives out for the Italian in recent weeks, at Valdebebas on Saturday afternoon to preview the match and is keen to pass his calmness down to his players for what is set to be a hot and hostile environment at a sold-out Camp Nou.

The Madrid boss was asked about the physical state of his side ahead of the match and although Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos will not be at 100 per cent for the match owing to recent returns from respective injuries, the Italian believes it will be the mental aspect of his side's performance, and not wholly the physical side, that will be crucial.

"We have improved physically, and I think that having Ramos and Modric back will help us a lot," he said. "I don't think that this game will be decided by the physical condition of any of these two teams, but it will be decided by whichever team plays with a cool head."

Madrid have lost their heads before in these matches and with devastating repercussions. Most will remember the Jose Mourinho era, in which Pepe was used in a midfield role in attempt to thwart Lionel Messi but it did not work. The Portuguese player was sent off, for a lunge on Dani Alves, in one of the most high-tempered Clasico contests in recent history.

Sergio Ramos also saw red in last season's 4-3 home defeat against the Catalans, although the decision was a controversial one with the defender insisting he did not touch Neymar, who fell under pressure from the former Sevilla player when he shaped to shoot. Madrid cannot afford to go into battle this Sunday with less than their full complement of players.

Ironically, Ancelotti could well point towards the example shown by Pepe this season. The defender's reputation preceded him before this season but the improvement in his discipline and calm has been drastic this season. The 32-year-old has not seen red this term and has only picked up one booking, less than players such as Ronaldo, Modric and Asier Illarramendi.

On the physical side, Madrid have enjoyed a full week of preparation after their 2-0 victory over Levante last weekend, while Barcelona played on Wednesday night to see off Manchester City in the Champions League. Toni Kroos, the man with most minutes under his belt for Los Blancos so far this term, was also handed a rest.

Ancelotti is right in his assessment of Sunday's match. While the physical side will be important, neither side should really struggle on that front. Ramos and Modric got crucial starts against Levante last weekend, albeit in a match that was not the most demanding against poor opposition. Kroos was also rested and Madrid coasted through in a 2-0 win and had a full week to prepare for the Camp Nou.

It will be the mental aspect where the game could be won and lost. Who feels the favourites, who feels they have the most to prove and the most to win and lose. Marca called for ‘The Spirit of Munich' on their front page on Thursday and if Madrid go into Sunday's game the same mental approach, and with cool heads, they should have a chance of upsetting Barcelona and getting their season back on track.