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Ancelotti: “We haven’t spoken yet about the PSG match”

Focus is on Villarreal in the league on Saturday.

Real Madrid v Granada - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

While a lot of the talk around Real Madrid right now is about next Tuesday’s PSG away leg, Carlo Ancelotti and his coaching staff are focusing on Saturday’s LaLiga Santander match at Villarreal. In his pre-match press conference on Friday, he said: “For us, our most important match is the next one. We’ve not spoken about Tuesday’s match yet at all. We want to keep picking up points in the league. I’ll put out the best team possible to try to win the game. Villarreal are doing very well and are in good form. They have quality and they’re well-organised, but we feel confident that we can play well in this one.”

Providing an injury update, he revealed that Ferland Mendy and Karim Benzema are both still unavailable for the Villarreal game, but that Mendy should be back against PSG and that Benzema could be back. On the No.9, the coach said: “Benzema is working on his own and we have to wait to see how he does when he trains with the team on Sunday or Monday. But, I won’t know until Sunday or Monday. But, his feeling, my feeling and the doctors’ feeling is positive. The priority is the player’s health. There won’t be any risks. If he plays on Tuesday then it’ll be because there is zero risk. If there is the slightest risk then we won’t take it.”

This could see Luka Jović given the chance to lead the line. He hasn’t always been chosen when Benzema is out, but Ancelotti revealed last weekend that this was because he hadn’t fully recovered his fitness after having had COVID-19. Now, though, the Serbian is doing well. As the coach said: “Jović is a lot better. He is recovering well after COVID-19. It’s probable that he’ll play tomorrow, but that’ll depend on how we want to play. If we want a striker who is better in the penalty area then we’ll go for him, but if we opt for a more possession-based football then we’ll pick others.”

Vinícius will also be back for his first game in a week and a half, after serving a suspension and after Real Madrid’s free midweek. On the Brazilian’s rest, Ancelotti said: “This week has been good for him because January was an intense month for him. I think he’s doing well and is motivated. I think we’ll see the version of Vinícius that we were seeing not that long ago.”

Ancelotti on whether Neymar or Benzema is a bigger loss

One of the most interesting questions posed during the press conference was when Ancelotti was asked if it’s a bigger blow for PSG to be without Neymar or for Real Madrid to be without Benzema. To that, he chuckled and replied: “I’d like both Neymar and Benzema to be on the pitch on Tuesday, so it can be the most entertaining game possible.”

Ancelotti on PSG having more rest

PSG will play their weekend’s league fixture this Friday night, whereas Real Madrid aren’t in action until Saturday afternoon. Asked if that extra day of rest is a big deal, the Italian said: “I’m not thinking much about the one extra day of rest. We’ll still have three days to rest, so that’s all the time we need to be ready.”

Ancelotti on Bale’s progress

There is almost always a question about Gareth Bale and there was one here. On the Welshman’s status, Ancelotti said: “I have a very good personal relationship with him. He’s training well, but it’s one thing to do well in training and another to do well in a match. People might ask why I haven’t put him on yet, but in the past two weeks he is now training with more intensity so I think he is ready to play now.”

Ancelotti on criticism of his lack of rotation

The Italian’s rotation policy was brought up and he defended himself, insisting that he has actually rotated more than some think. He said: “I think it’s more that they say I haven’t rotated than the actual truth. I haven’t rotated players just for tiredness because I haven’t noticed tiredness. But, like all teams, we’ve had injuries and have used different players.”

Ancelotti on criticism of his style

Answering a question about the style of play of Ancelotti’s Real Madrid, he said: “I adapt my style to the players I have. There’s aesthetics and practicality in football. If you can combine both these things then you have a better chance for success. Practicality is about the collective commitment, while aesthetics is more about the individuals.”