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Ancelotti: “Benzema’s injury comes at a good time, he’ll be ready for the business end of the season”

The coach’s pre-Clásico press conference.

RCD Mallorca v Real Madrid CF - La Liga Santander Photo by Rafa Babot/Getty Images

It’s Clásico weekend and Carlo Ancelotti previewed Sunday night’s showdown between Real Madrid and Barcelona in his pre-match press conference, held on Saturday afternoon. The coach stated that he is hoping for a night like the 2-0 win in March of 2020, the last Clásico held at the Bernabéu. On that, he said: “The last Clásico in the Bernabéu was incredible and the fans will want a repeat. We’ll do all we can to repeat that night. We must approach this game in a serious way. It’s a special match and a demanding one. We feel good and confident. We’re facing a strong team in good form so we need to have a complete performance. We must defend well. We must press well. We must play the ball out from the back well. We must play vertical. We must do all of these things at different points of the game for a complete performance.”

Moving on to discuss Karim Benzema’s absence, as a result of injury, Ancelotti suggested that this might actually be a good time for the French striker to suffer a physical issue, given that it now means he won’t go away with France and will have two weeks to recover. On the injury, the coach said: “Neither Karim nor Mendy can play tomorrow. We’ve never taken any risks with Benzema. We didn’t take any risks when he played in Paris either. They won’t go away with France next week, as they’ll stay here to work with us. I think with Benzema, he has had his injuries this season at the right moments and I think it’s the same here. We now have two weeks for him to recover because of the international break, which means he’ll come back strong for the business end of the season.”

Asked about how he’ll replace Benzema, the coach logically didn’t give much away. He said: “Benzema is a very important part of this team so we’ll need to find different solutions without him. I have decided how to replace him, but I’m not going to tell you here. We have many alternatives, with Bale, Mariano and Jović, or Isco or Rodrygo have played there too. There were many options and I’ve picked what I think is best for this game.”

Ancelotti on Xavi’s work at Barcelona

Discussing Barcelona and their improvement under Xavi, Ancelotti said: “I don’t think their identity ever changes, as the club has a clear style. He fits in with that style well and the team have improved a lot under him. They’re playing well. Personally, I think he is doing a good job.”

Ancelotti on Real Madrid’s style

The discussion about styles continued and the Italian was asked what Real Madrid’s style of play should be. He replied by saying that he doesn’t think there should be a fixed way of playing at the club, explaining: “Real Madrid’s style has to embody the characteristics of the players. I think all teams need to think like that, that their style depends on their players. If you have players who can play possession football then you should play possession football. If you have defenders who are good with the ball at their feet then you can bring the ball out from the back. But, if you don’t have defenders like that then long balls can be a good way to get the ball forward. I don’t rule any styles out. I’ve always tried to install styles that make my players comfortable. For me, football isn’t about just one style. I want my teams to have various identities.”

Ancelotti on the importance of Nacho

The coach was also asked specifically about Nacho and how he can contribute in so many different ways. On the defender, Ancelotti said: “He knows his role in this squad. It doesn’t matter if he plays or not, he always has balance and professionalism. He’s always top no matter the position he plays.”