After the game at the Metropolitano, Ancelotti was asked on television why he had made so many changes and whether he planned to continue with his recognised first-choice players. He then blurted out his planning for the final in Paris: “On Thursday, against Levante, those who have been rested today will play; then, in Cadiz, those who have played today will return; and on the last day, against Betis, those who will play in the final will play.”
As clear as one can hope for, unusual in football, where coaches often handle their decisions with a sense of mystery that the topic rarely deserves. Ancelotti decided some time ago to dispense with tall tales, something that is very much appreciated.
Madrid planning for Liverpool final
And it’s a level of planning that makes overwhelming sense, aimed at giving some respite at the end of the season for those who have played the most, but without losing sharpness. Putting Benzema, Modric, Vinicius, Carvajal, Militao and others into a health resort so that nothing bad happens to them until Paris would be as counterproductive as tiring them out with full matches in the final stretch of a championship that has already been decided.
Hence the plan: three games (starting with Atlético) to spread out the rest periods and the fourth to get the key players into tip-top condition to face Liverpool on the 28th in Paris. A sort of mini-pre-season, made possible by the early title.
Someone told me that this strategy puts an extra focus on the last league game, the one against Betis, since, as the coach says, this is where the Parisian side will be playing. We already know Ancelotti’s ideal XI with just a single doubt, that of the right winger, where both Rodrygo and Asensio have competed... and more recently also Valverde, whose strength and shot are appreciated now more than ever.
Which of the three? Or will it be two and, as some are starting to ask, Kroos, who is struggling, leaves his place to Valverde and the winger is left to Rodrygo? I don’t think we’ll know that from the Betis game. Ancelotti’s clarity does not stretch quite so far as to reveal what even he himself is not entirely clear about.