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Ancelotti: “I’m grateful for the criticism, it keeps me alert”

The coach reflected on the cup exit and looked ahead to the Granada match too.

Athletic Club v Real Madrid - Copa del Rey Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Carlo Ancelotti spoke to the media again on Saturday lunchtime, in his pre-match press conference ahead of Sunday’s Granada game. The focus, though, was on Real Madrid’s midweek Copa del Rey elimination in Bilbao.

The Italian was asked about the criticism that has come his way in the days since then and if he feels it is fair for him to receive so much of the blame for the cup exit. He replied: “I’m used to these kinds of moments. I’m so motivated to be the coach of Real Madrid that criticism is welcome. It keeps me alert. Criticism makes me think more too, so I am grateful for the criticism. It keeps me more alive!”

One of the criticisms has been about Ancelotti’s lack of rotation and reluctance to make the most of Los Blancos’ squad depth. To that, he replied: “I am the coach of Real Madrid and the coach of Real Madrid must always take the decisions, some of which are right and some of which are wrong. That’s normal. That’s nothing new. If I give players the opportunity, then they’ll play. But, this is a decision I must make when it comes to the starting XI. While it’s true I’ve mostly used the same players, some players weren’t ready to play. I think I have been managing the squad well because I’m the one who sees the players every day.”

He also dismissed the suggestion that the squad is fatigued, saying: “I think the squad is good physically. We finished the match at San Mamés well. Apart from the injuries of Benzema, Mendy and Mariano, the squad if quite healthy. I think we’ll get through this complicated period of absences soon.”

Karim Benzema remains an absence for the Granada game and the coach provided an update on the Frenchman, saying: “He’s out of this game. He has improved, but he’s still not 100 percent. So, we’ll have to wait a few more days to see if he’ll be available for the next game after this one. He is the Pichichi of LaLiga, so we’re missing a player who scores a lot of goals. Every club has their Benzema, who they really miss when that player is out. But, we’ve won matches without Benzema too, like Real Sociedad and Inter.”

Ancelotti on Hazard’s lack of minutes

It wouldn’t be a Real Madrid press conference without a question about Eden Hazard, with the coach asked why the Belgian has played so little. Ancelotti responded by saying: “He is good and is training well in all of the sessions, but then there are the decisions I must take to put out the best line-up. If Hazard doesn’t play then it’s because I prefer for someone else to play. Remember, though, that he has played several matches too. But, it’s nothing personal and it’s nothing physical.”

Ancelotti on Bale laughing on the bench

On Thursday night, footage from El Chiringuito spotted Bale laughing in the bench when Hazard was asked to warm up and then sit back down. On this, Ancelotti said: “I didn’t see that. I don’t know why Bale would have laughed. That doesn’t seem like an important situation to me. It’s quite a normal thing, since only three players can warm up at the same time. That’s the rule. So, sometimes a players warms up for a while and then sits back down.”

Ancelotti on starting Vinícius against Athletic

The final question of the Copa del Rey post-mortem was about the decision to start Vinícius, even though he had only just returned from Brazil duty. Here, Ancelotti admitted that this might have been a mistake. He said: “I risked a little with Vinícius, as I could have put him on in the second half. People can think what they want about that. But, I don’t think there’s much to say about the other decisions I made. With the centre-forward decision, I wanted pace at first and then wanted to introduce Isco.”