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Ancelotti: “We struggled in the first half, but not because Hazard was at centre-forward”

The coach’s thoughts on Real Madrid’s Benzema-less attack.

Real Madrid CF v RCD Mallorca - LaLiga Santander Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images

Real Madrid came from behind to ultimately win 4-1 against Real Mallorca on Sunday. Considering they achieved this without their talisman Karim Benzema, Carlo Ancelotti was happy. He said afterwards: “It was a complicated game for many reasons, such as the heat or conceding from a set piece, but we kept cool heads and managed to win. At half time, we decided to try moving Hazard away from the centre-forward position a little and put other players there at points with their movement. Fede Valverde moved in there once, Rodrygo or Vinícius too. If the score had stayed level, the plan could have been to have Rodrygo at centre-forward. I think the best, or most important goal, was the combination between Vinícius and Rodrygo. For the team to overcome the absence of Benzema is good for the confidence.”

Discussing that absence of Benzema a little more, Ancelotti discussed the No.9 position and Eden Hazard’s performance there. He said: “We had struggles in the first half, but not because Hazard was at centre-forward. So, I will have the same plan for the future. I can also play Rodrygo at centre-forward sometimes and Hazard at centre-forward sometimes. We can play again with Hazard at centre-forward and Rodrygo out wide, as it’s more difficult to play Hazard at centre-forward and Fede Valverde as the winger. Because Hazard moves a lot, it’s better to have Rodrygo with him than Valverde because he can attack behind the line.”

Ancelotti on Asensio’s frustration

Marco Asensio was going to come on in this game, but the injury to Lucas Vázquez changed that plan and the winger was upset, throwing his bib away once told he wouldn’t get on. On that moment of tension, the coach said: “If we hadn’t scored the 2-1 when we did, I’d have put on Mariano and Asensio. That’s why they went to warm up. Then, Lucas Vázquez got injured, but at that point I just wanted to change one player. Asensio was upset and I agree with him. It means he wants to play and that’s good. I understand that he has been left out more than most other players in the squad to start the season.”

Ancelotti on the opposition’s aggression with Vinícius

Towards the end of this game, the more Vinícius dribbled the more he was being targeted by the Real Mallorca players. Discussing this issue and whether it might happen in other games, Ancelotti said: “Vinicius is a special player. With the way he plays, he’s a player who the opponents might get frustrated with. He always tries to dribble, whether the team is winning or losing. For the opponent, if you’re losing and a player is trying to dribble past you then you might get more annoyed than normal. This happens in football. He’ll learn more about this with more experience. He doesn’t need to change anything about his attitude, as he already respects the referees and the opponents.”

Ancelotti on the World Cup

Asked about the World Cup and what state he thinks his players will be in after it, the coach replied: “I don’t think we’re going to have many problems. Afterwards, that’s the doubt. We’ll have to evaluate those who come back and give them rest. So, maybe in the first games after the World Cup we won’t have the whole squad available. But, that’s the calendar. Just like today’s calendar meant we had to play at 14:00.”

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