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Carlo Ancelotti: The Champions League is the most important competition

Before Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday, Carlo Ancelotti spoke about Modrić, Benzema, Courtois, Xavi, Messi and more

Roddy Cons
Before Real Madrid v Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League on Wednesday, Carlo Ancelotti spoke about Modrić, Benzema, Courtois, Xavi, Messi and more

Carlo Ancelotti spoke to the media ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League clash between Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk at the Santiago Bernabéu and insisted that Europe’s elite club competition trumps LaLiga.

Q: How are you approaching the match?

A: It’s really important to get to nine points. We’re ready for it. We didn’t play well on Sunday (in a home draw against Osasuna) and we have to show a better attitude. We want to improve and show our true identity. We have total respect for our opponents. As you know, Thibaut Courtois is out but Luka Modric and Lucas Vázquez are available again. Dani Ceballos has been having some trouble with his hamstring and won’t play.

Modric, Hazard, Benzema and Courtois

Q: Will Modric start?

A: I’m not sure yet.

Q: Eden Hazard has said he wants to play more. Has he told you that personally?

A: Obviously, every player knows which situation they find themselves in. I have to explain to them what’s going on. Eden hasn’t spoken to me directly. There’s a lot of competition for places. His position, like that of others, is quite clear.

Q: Can you understand the criticism of Karim Benzema?

A: When Karim isn’t able to perform at his best, people will criticise him. That’s normal, but it doesn’t affect us.

Q: Is Courtois in danger of missing El Clásico?

A: He’s much better. He’s a doubt for the next game against Getafe but he could be back for the return game against Shakhtar or El Clásico.

The Champions League more important than LaLiga

Q: What’s more difficult to win? LaLiga or the Champions League?

A: I would always want to win the Champions League. The league is important but the Champions League is the most important. They’re different. In one you play 38 games and in the other much fewer. Sometimes it’s just a 180-minute tie. That’s where every little detail counts. It’s not good luck or bad luck. Talking about luck sometimes hides the problems you have and takes away from your opponents. If I say that we were unlucky against Osasuna then I’m hiding the fact that we struggled when we had the ball and that they played well. It’s important to talk about the little details, in the Champions League you can concede three goals in a few minutes, it’s happened to me before. It can happen to you in a semi-final. You can control these little details by being mentally strong. Real Madrid are the team that have done that the best.

Does the best team always win the Champions League?

Q: Do Xavi and Messi (who said that the best team doesn’t always win the Champions League) look down on Real Madrid’s achievements?

A: Sometimes people are surprised by what we’ve been able to achieve.

Q: Even when Real Madrid win the Champions League, there are always doubts about whether they were actually the best team.

A: I can’t comment on this. This is where you have to decide what being the ‘best’ means. Playing good football can mean many different things. You can’t be successful if you only do one thing well, especially in the Champions League. It’s easier to say that the best team always wins the Champions League.

Q: Have you re-watched games from last year? Is the past important?

A: For us, the history of the club is important. This team has been incredibly successful in this competition. It helps us in the present and it will help us in the future.

Casemiro se va del Real Madrid tras haber disputado un total de 15 finales y sin perder ninguna junto con sus compañeros Kroos y Modric. De hecho, Carlo Ancelotti se refería a ellos como “El Triángulo de las Bermudas”, porque cuando tenían el balón, desaparecía.
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Real Madrid defeated Liverpool in the final of the Champions League in 2021-22. Shaun BotterillGetty Images

Q: Do you agree that Camavinga has played better coming off the bench?

A: I agree. He feels more comfortable when the game is more open. It’s a question of time, of getting more experience in terms of positioning on the field. It’s something he’s going to get better at. He has so much quality. He just lacks a bit of experience. But he’s 19, it’s normal.

Q: What do you think of Shakhtar?

A: They are a team that has lots of problems training and travelling. They’ve started the Champions League campaign really well. Their style of play is similar this year, they want to play football and be direct. They’ve got really fast attackers and are good on the counterattack. We have total respect for them.


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