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Ancelotti: “This is not the most important part of the season”

The coach’s first press conference in two weeks.

FBL-EUR-C1-REAL MADRID-PRESSER Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti had his first press conference in 15 days on Monday evening, speaking to the media ahead of Real Madrid’s Champions League game at Shakhtar Donetsk. Providing a general update on the squad, he said: “We had a good international break because players have returned in good condition, apart from Eden Hazard who had a small issue. He couldn’t play this one, but he could be back for Barcelona. We’ve also welcomed players back from injury like Ferland Mendy and Marcelo, while Toni Kroos is even closer to full fitness. Now, we have this important game and we’re motivated. We’ve lost the past couple of games and lost our sense or order, but we’ve worked on our errors. So, we’re ready for this match against a team who play well.”

Despite some underwhelming performances just before the pause, Ancelotti isn’t overly concerned. He explained: “I think at this point of the season, few teams are at their very top level. Having breaks in September, October and November doesn’t help. But, this isn’t the most important part of the season. That comes later, when the finals come and this tends to be in May.”

Discussing his side’s systems and the different formations used just before the October international break, the Italian explained: “We’ve tried sometimes to defend with a 4-4-2, as we did against Espanyol, and it didn’t work out well. The idea I have is for this team to play 4-3-3. That’s the way. You can use different kinds of players, maybe non-natural wingers, but this is the best for this squad of players. It’s what they’re most used to.”

Ancelotti on the return on Mendy and Marcelo

Ferland Mendy and Marcelo are back in the squad and Ancelotti went into some more detail on what their return means, considering he had been forced to use a mix of Miguel Gutiérrez, Nacho and David Alaba at left-back so far. He said: “Mendy is available and he could play. We had a problem on the left because we only had Miguel Gutiérrez as a natural left-back. He did well in some matches, but now we’ve got two other left-backs back and this is good news for the others.”

Ancelotti on hometown hero Lunin

For Andriy Lunin, this is a return to his native Ukraine and to a stadium where he has had minutes for his national team. With Real Madrid, he has hardly played because of Thibaut Courtois, but Ancelotti hopes to give the youngster opportunities at some point. Responding to a question from the local media, the coach said: “Lunin is doing very well and showing a lot of quality. I have told him he’ll have minutes this season. But, he does have one of the best goalkeepers in the world in front of him in Courtois. He is a goalkeeper who I am convinced will be a success in his career.”

Ancelotti on the Modrić, Kroos and Casemiro midfield

Real Madrid may not be replying on Luka Modrić, Toni Kroos and Casemiro as much as in recent years, but Ancelotti still believes the legendary trio can compete against the best in the world. On their performances in 2021/22, the coach said: “From what I see, they’re still competing and they’re still top midfielders. In this squad, I’m lucky to have youngsters like Valverde, Blanco and Camavinga who push these top players to keep them on their toes and ready for everything. We do need to keep in mind their age and we have to give opportunities to the younger players, but we know we have a midfield that can compete against all others.”

Ancelotti on Shakhtar coach Roberto De Zerbi

This will be a match between two Italian coaches, with Roberto De Zerbi now in the Shakhtar dugout. On the tactician, Ancelotti said: “I know him and he is a good friend. We’re from different generations, but he did well at Sassuolo. His teams play with an identity. Like his current Shakhtar Donetsk team and like his Sassuolo did.”