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Ancelotti: “I thought about starting Hazard today, but I picked Lucas for his width”

The coach spoke about the specific challenges of Shakhtar.

Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk: Group D - UEFA Champions League Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid struggled to a 2-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk on Wednesday night, although Carlo Ancelotti made sure to point out in his post-match press conference that the Ukrainians are a more difficult team than many think. Explaining his tactics and why he only made two substitutions, he said: “I made one with Carvajal to avoid physical problems, since he was just back from injury. I think Carvajal did well, though, but it was just a physical thing. Then I took off Benzema in order to introduce Luka Jovic. I didn’t want to change the defensive or offensive aspect too much. I think we controlled it quite well and having a deeper block for the final 10 minutes helped us avoid problems at the back. There was also a bit of fatigue involved in this. Shakhtar are a different team to most others because they like you to press them, because then they can hurt you. So, we had some specific tactics for this specific game against this specific team.”

Pressed on the fact he only made two substitutions, Ancelotti said that he understands why players like Eden Hazard and Marco Asensio might be upset at not having any minutes. He said: “I think Hazard is ready to play and he could have played today or he could play on Saturday. I think he’ll have minutes and he needs to be ready for that. I thought about starting him today, but because of a tactical reason I preferred to play with a winger who could give more width than Hazard, who prefers to go inside. That’s why I selected Lucas Vázquez instead. It’s normal if players are frustrated at not playing. I understand the frustrations when a player warms up for 40 minutes in the second half and then still doesn’t get on, which is something I’ve apologised to those players for. Marcelo, for example, warmed up for 40 minutes and he is a player who has won countless Champions Leagues. This is the ugly side of the game.”

It was put to the coach that Thibaut Courtois, Vinícius and Karim Benzema stood out more than most. While the coach agreed with this, he wanted to praise his other players too, saying: “They stood out, but this is a team where everyone is working hard. Militão and Alaba worked hard too, while the midfield has quality. Vinícius stood out and assisted Karim for the two goals, so I agree with that, but Real Madrid is more than those three.”

Ancelotti on the Bernabéu’s whistles

There were whistles from some fans at points in this game, something that hadn’t happened yet this season. But, the Italian viewed this as a positive. He said: “I understand it, I understand the demanding fanbase here. It can be good to motivate us. We had started both halves well, but then got worse in both. That can happen and it can be good for the fanbase to wake us up with some whistles.”