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Ancelotti: “Atlético had an advantage because they needed points and we didn’t”

The coach explained why he rotated so much.

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

Real Madrid lost the Madrid derby 1-0 on Sunday night, but Carlo Ancelotti isn’t too concerned. He explained why he made so many rotations and insisted that the priority right now is for his players to fully recover from what have been an intense few weeks, with one eye on the Champions League final on May 28th.

The Italian said: “The mental aspect is very important in these kinds of games and Atlético had an advantage in this sense because they needed points and we didn’t. We needed to rest the fatigued players as the priority is to avoid physical problems and give minutes to lesser-used players. We also needed to play better in the first half, that’s true. Going forward, Benzema, Modrić and Vinicius will have minutes, as we need to keep up our rhythm.”

Asked if the final few games of the LaLiga Santander season are awkward for Real Madrid and if he’d rather play the Champions League final now instead of in a few weeks, the coach replied: “No, I think it’s good to have these games and we have a chance to recover all our players and to be in good shape for the final. We’ll have normal weeks of work from now until then. Some physical work and some tactical work, but nothing special. I don’t think we should tinker too much.”

Ancelotti on why he didn’t replace Mariano with Benzema

One of the line-up decisions was a forced one, as Mariano suffered an injury in the warm-up. But, rather than turn to Karim Benzema once the Mariano option was ruled out, Ancelotti went for Luka Jović. In the press conference, the coach explained that he never considered starting Benzema even once he learned of Mariano’s injury, stating: “I never thought about playing Karim. He was fatigued and hadn’t fully recovered yet. It was tough for Jović, like it would have been for all forwards, as we didn’t get the ball up there.”

Ancelotti on his conversation with Simeone

There was no ‘pasillo’, or guard of honour, but Ancelotti confirmed that Diego Simeone did congratulate him. He said: “Diego greeted me and congratulated me. I have no problem with him.”

Ancelotti on the penalty

Weirdly, Ancelotti wasn’t asked about the Cunha penalty incident during the press conference. But, since this was an in-person press conference and not a Zoom one, as the Italian left the room he turned to the press and jokingly shouted “don’t ask me about the penalty, then!”