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Ancelotti defends lack of rotation: “I looked at the stats and we only played the same XI once”

Not worried about Casemiro’s possible suspension.

Real Madrid CF v Athletic Club - La Liga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti’s press conferences have been fascinating all season long, especially the longer pre-match ones, and that was the case once again this Friday ahead of the Real Sociedad match. Starting off by previewing the trip to the Basque Country, Ancelotti explained that he is fully focused on this one and not on the other tough fixtures on the schedule.

He said: “Inter and Atlético aren’t the most important matches. We have this match. We face a team who play really well and have a lot of quality. I’m excited to have this exam in a fantastic stadium. We’ll go out to try to win, as we always do. If Casemiro has to play in this game then that’s fine and if he gets booked and then misses the Atlético game then that’s also fine. With Casemiro, Kroos and Modrić, I’m just thinking that they could play the Real Sociedad game.”

Rotation – or the lack of it – has been a big talking point of the last few days and was one of the main themes of this press conference. The coach got quite defensive and said: “I looked at the stats and the only time we played with the same XI two matches in a row was Shakhtar Donetsk and then Barcelona. We’ve always made some changes. For example, Nacho has played against Granada, Mariano against Elche, Camavinga against Osasuna, Marcelo against Elche. We’ve changed the full-backs around. So, I have made some changes. There’s no alarm over the physical condition of the players, who we evaluate after every match. Players are coming back, like Bale, who trained today even if he won’t be in tomorrow’s squad. Dani Ceballos is starting to work on his own too. So, the squad is in good condition.”

Asked specifically why he isn’t resting Karim Benzema, Vinícius or Casemiro, Ancelotti went through the situations one by one, saying: “We have replacements but the two attackers in front are doing a very good job and it’s hard to give them rest because it would stop our momentum. The thing about Casemiro is that he brings so much balance, we have other great players behind him like Camavinga or Blanco but they don’t have a lot of experience yet,” he said.

Ancelotti on set piece defending

Real Madrid have suddenly forgotten how to defend set pieces, but Ancelotti isn’t overly concerned. He explained: “We’ve suffered in the last few games, it’s true. We need to work on our positioning. We did well in the first 15 games by not conceding from set pieces, then we had some bad luck with the Rafa Mir goal because there was a block on Mendy and Militão. But, we had been doing well and Courtois helps us a lot too. We can always improve, though.”

Ancelotti on opponents targeting Vinícius

With Vinícius in the spotlight, he is now a key target for opposition defenders and Ancelotti was asked if he thinks players are too aggressive when defending the Brazilian. On that, he said: “It’s normal for the best players to be closely marked. The opponents haven’t crossed the line. The red card challenge in the Granada game was a little aggressive, but also not that serious. I haven’t seen anything too dangerous for him.”

Ancelotti on Xabi Alonso

Xabi Alonso won’t be involved in this weekend’s match, but he is the Real Sociedad B team coach and Ancelotti was asked about his former player. The Italian said: “If you’ve played in midfield you have more of an advantage as a coach as you have to see the game well and position yourself well. Xabi Alonso was one of the best midfielders I’ve had in that sense. If I’d had to guess which of my players would become a coach, I would have guessed Xabi Alonso.”

Ancelotti on a footballing reincarnation

One of the more obscure but interesting questions saw Ancelotti asked what player he would want to come back as if he could magically become a modern day footballer and play the game again. He replied: “I wouldn’t come back as a midfielder. Maybe a centre-forward. Maybe Vinícius or Benzema or Haaland. A centre-forward who could score a lot of goals. In my career, I didn’t score many goals.”

Ancelotti on Mbappé’s childhood dream

With Kylian Mbappé having released a comic book about his life, revealing his childhood dream of playing for Real Madrid, you knew this would be brought up at this press conference. Ancelotti seemed to know too as he had a short and possibly pre-prepared answer, saying: “Kids have to follow their dreams. I dreamed of one day playing in the Serie A and that dream came true,” he said.

Ancelotti on Isco’s lack of minutes

Since the supposed Isco controversy in Granada, the midfielder hasn’t been used and hasn’t even warmed up much. But, Ancelotti insisted there is no issue, stating: “If something had happened then I would tell you. I have nothing to hide. He hasn’t warmed up in the last few matches because we were winning and I wouldn’t put Isco into a situation where we’re winning on the scoreboard. In those situations, we needed a more defensive kind of midfielder. If we had needed a goal, I might have put a more attacking player such as Isco.”

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