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Ancelotti: “Atlético have more individual quality now than when I faced them before”

The coach previewed Sunday’s Madrid derby.

Real Madrid v Internazionale - UEFA Champions League Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Discussing Sunday’s match and opponents, the Italian said: “Atlético are solid and have more individual quality than when I faced them before, but they have the same teamwork and commitment. We’re coming up with tactics to overcome them. These are two teams who use counter attacks well. Set pieces could be important too. It’ll be a very difficult match for both teams, but I think it’ll be a good match. They have great players, with Griezmann, Luis Suárez, who is a fantastic striker, Rodrigo de Paul, who came from Udinese and is doing well. The defenders and the goalkeeper too. Simeone has turned Atlético into one of the best clubs in Europe. All coaches dream of being able to stay at one club for such a long time. I’d love to stay that long at Real Madrid.”

Providing an injury update for the derby, he said: “Benzema trained today and feels good. He is available and will play tomorrow. Everyone except for Ceballos has trained, and he’ll return next week. Bale is good and will be in the squad too. He could play, though I don’t know if he’ll start. Being in the squad shows he has the motivation to play. I want to thank the medical staff because we have almost all of the players available, so they’re doing a good job.

Analysing the title race as a whole, he added: “There are three points in play, but there’s also an emotional aspect since it’s a local rivalry and it’s a match for the title race. The fans have special feelings for this game. We’ll go out to win the three points and to try to make them happy. If we win then we’ll have three more points compared to one of our rivals, but I expect them to fight to the end of the season in any case. We have been better than the other teams so far, but the league season doesn’t finish now. There are six more months to go.”

Given that Ancelotti hasn’t won the Spanish league title before, he was asked if he’d rather win this than another Champions League. To that, he responded: “The Champions League is the most important competition in Europe and the world. LaLiga is important too. Of course, having not won it, I’m extra motivated to win it.”

Ancelotti on Hazard and João Félix

Asked about the fact that Eden Hazard and João Félix are likely to start on the bench, despite their price tags, Ancelotti insisted that coaches shouldn’t consider the price tags when picking the team. He said: “It’s not difficult to put a €100m player on the bench. What’s difficult is putting any player on the bench.”

Ancelotti on his “low block” comment

After the previous match, Ancelotti said his team feels more comfortable defending deep. Asked about this, he added: “The characteristics of the squad are something to consider. All coaches would like to play attacking football in the opposition’s half in every match, but you have to consider the opponent and certain characteristics. So, defending with a low block can make us more comfortable given the characteristics of the players we have. If we do want to press higher up the pitch, then it’s true that players like Valverde and Camavinga can help with that.”

Ancelotti on Courtois

Discussing the in-form Thibaut Courtois, the coach said: “I think he is having a very good career. He was good when he was at Atlético Madrid, then at Chelsea and now here. He is standing out because he is great goalkeeper. He has great presence in the penalty area and maybe that’s what stands out most.”