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Ancelotti: “I’ve never won at the Camp Nou, now is the time to change that”

The Real Madrid coach previewed El Clásico.

Real Madrid Training Session Photo by Helios de la Rubia/Real Madrid via Getty Images

It’s El Clásico on Sunday, so all eyes and ears were on Carlo Ancelotti as he spoke on Saturday afternoon about this game. The coach was asked how much chewing gum he thinks he’ll get through in this fixture, since it’s a big one.

On that, he chucked and said: “I don’t know how many pieces of gum I’ll chew! It’s normal to be concerned during these games. Even being scared can be good. If you don’t have fear then you can go up to a lion thinking it’s a cat. So, fear is a positive feeling. Confidence is necessary too and I have a strong team in my opinion. They are not only technical or physical, but also mentally strong. I don’t know who is the better team ahead of the match. Barcelona’s last few matches were good too. I don’t know who is the favourite. Talking about favourites doesn’t make any sense to me when discussing a match like this. What I can say is it is a special match, for us, for Barcelona and for Spanish football. We’ve prepared for this as if it were a special match. We have given the players all the necessary instructions to have a good game.”

Ancelotti, logically, wouldn’t discuss those line-up plans for the match, though. He explained: “I’m not going to talk about the line-up, as I’ve not yet spoken with the players. We’re ready and have a good squad. We’ve also welcomed back Dani Carvajal and Eden Hazard. It is difficult to start a player who is just back from injury, but what’s important for us is knowing they’re back and could feature. All players know they could be important, even if that is coming off the bench.”

Discussing the most recent match, the win over Shakhtar Donetsk, the coach reflected on his decision to play with almost no press in the opposition half. He explained: “The plan against Shakhtar was quite clear. We decided to wait a little deeper because they’re good at playing through a press. We wanted to wait a little deeper and we did well. Every opponent has their own characteristics. Without losing our identity, we’ll adapt. We might play differently against Barcelona since they play differently to Shakhtar.”

Asked about how he thinks the team is playing and if there are areas where he’d like to improve, Ancelotti said: “I like how we’re playing in attack, as our players are combining well. Coaches tend to intervene in attacking play less because it’s more about the creativity and quality of the players. We do have things to improve, though, and I’d like to have a higher press, so that’s something we’ll work on.”

Ancelotti on Barcelona’s first Clásico since Messi’s departure

Barcelona won’t have Lionel Messi for this game, but Ancelotti doesn’t think this will necessarily make the game easier. He said: “There’s no Messi, but there are other players with different characteristics and who are very good. We’re facing Barcelona. It’s a Barcelona without Messi, that’s true. But, I don’t want this to change our approach to the game. It has always been difficult against them and it always will be.”

Ancelotti on his poor record at the Camp Nou

Ancelotti has never won at the Camp Nou in his coaching career, not with Real Madrid or any other club. His record there is three losses and two draws from five visits and he is keen to change that. He said: “Having never won in the Camp Nou, I think now is the time. But, it won’t be easy. There are three points in play, but they’re just three points. There will be many points to fight for over the remainder of the season, not just against Barcelona.”

Ancelotti on El Clásico compared to other rivalries

There are several other big games this weekend and Ancelotti has been involved in many big derbies over the years. Comparing El Clásico with other such matches, he said: “El Clásico is a special game. Messi and Ronaldo have gone, but that doesn’t change it. We can’t think about the individuals, but we should think about the teams. These matches are similar for me as a coach. There are lots of rivalries. It’s not that different to a Milan vs Inter or a Chelsea vs Tottenham, in terms of how I feel. It feels the same to me.”