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Ancelotti: “Finishing first is important, more for prestige than for the last 16 draw”

The coach spoke ahead of the final group stage game.

Real Madrid Training Session And Press Conference Photo by Alvaro Medranda/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Real Madrid finish their Champions League campaign against Celtic on Wednesday and Carlo Ancelotti previewed that game in a press conference held on Tuesday. Discussing Celtic and whether he thinks they’ll play an attacking style, the coach said: “I don’t think they’re going to change their identity. They’ll play with intensity and passion and we should expect that. We want to get back to our best. We respect Celtic a lot. They have played good matches and they did well but could have got more points.”

Ancelotti on Tchouaméni and Benzema’s fitness

The two fitness concerns right now are Aurélien Tchouaméni and Karim Benzema and Ancelotti provided an update, while also dismissing the notion that Benzema is sitting out to stay fresh for the World Cup. He said: “I don’t think Tchouaméni will be available for tomorrow, while Benzema could be in the squad if he feels good. Then, we’ll decided on whether he’d start or play a part, but that will depend on how he feels. His absences aren’t because the World Cup is coming up. He’s had a few injuries and he’s 34. Remember that to reach the World Cup, it’s good to be in good form.”

Ancelotti on learning from defeat

After he said last week that you can learn more from defeat than from 10 wins in a row, Ancelotti was asked what he has learned from this past week. He said: “We’ve learned from some of the mistakes we made. We didn’t have the right concentration in those matches. And we couldn’t win the ball back well enough or control counter attacks, so we hope to fix these things.”

Ancelotti on the other Spanish clubs’ Champions League eliminations

The fact that Real Madrid will be the only LaLiga side in the next round of the Champions League was brought up, but Ancelotti doesn’t think too many long-term conclusions should be drawn. He said: “It’s a specific moment that has happened for various reasons, but you can’t say Spanish football has lost its way. By the end of the season, we could perfectly have a situation where a Spanish team wins the Champions League and a Spanish team wins the Europa League. So, let’s hold off before saying that Spanish football isn’t competitive anymore.”

Ancelotti on the importance of winning the group

The coach stated that he thinks it’s important for Real Madrid to win the group, but not so much to have an easier opponent or a home second leg in the last 16. Rather, as Ancelotti explained: “It’s important, but not too significant since there will be strong second-placed teams. Finishing first is more important because of the prestige of this club in this special competition. We need to respect every match in this competition.”

Ancelotti on his comments about the Girona refereeing

After Ancelotti openly criticised the refereeing in Real Madrid’s draw against Girona, he was asked if he thinks he’ll receive a ban and if he thinks big clubs shouldn’t complain about officiating. He said: “I don’t know. I can still sleep at night. I didn’t disrespect anybody. I just said something that all football people think. If I do get suspended, then I’ll just have to be patient. I think big clubs can complain too because errors can go against any club, against us or against other big clubs. The important thing is for there to be clarity. This isn’t really about Real Madrid or Girona or Real Mallorca or Barcelona. It’s about football. If they say that’s a penalty, we should return to the start of the season and they should re-explain the rules. I understand the rule, because I’m not stupid. The rules they explained to us say that that incident shouldn’t have been a penalty.”

Ancelotti on VAR

Asked about VAR in general and its implementation in football, he said: “I think VAR was a good invention, but sometimes it becomes more important than the referee. The referee should still be in charge. VAR was brought in to fix clear errors. It’s a very thin line, I know, but I think they should only intervene for clear and obvious errors. It wouldn’t have been a clear and obvious error to not give that penalty.”

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