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Every word of Carlo Ancelotti’s press conference ahead of the return leg against Liverpool

Real Madrid’s coach says his team learned their lesson from last year’s tie against Chelsea when they went three goals down at the Bernabéu - the same figure Liverpool need to level the tie.

Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti arrives for a press conference at the Ciudad Real Madrid training complex in Valdebebas, outskirts of Madrid on March 14, 2023, on the eve of the UEFA Champions League last 16 second leg football match between Real Madrid CF and Liverpool FC. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

During his 50 years in football - the last 30 of them in coaching, Carlo Ancelotti has pretty much seen it all. He’s lost count of the times he has witnessed teams miraculously turn the tables in situations where they looked dead and buried. His current Real Madrid side also staged remarkable comebacks as recently as last season, clawing their way back into three ties en route to the final. Madrid suffered first leg defeats to PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City but still managed to resolve all three at home in Chamartín - Chelsea were 0-3 up with 15 minutes left on the clock in last year’s quarter final, only for Ancelotti’s team to find something extra just when it counted most.

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And he will remember the sinking feeling which overcame him when Liverpool cancelled out the seemingly unassailable three-goal lead his AC Milan had built up in the 2005 Champions League final. Ancelotti comes face to face with Liverpool again on Wednesday night with his side defending a three-goal cushion although the Italian insists that there will be no complacency as far as Madrid are concerned.

The Real Madrid coach took questions from the media after Tuesday’s training session in Valdebebas.

What message will you be trying to get across to your players bearing in mind the result from the first leg?

“The message is quite simple, it’s very clear. It’s not about calculating how many goals might be needed. We have to play to the best of our abilities and try to put in a similar performance to the one we put in during the first leg. We’ll be trying to enter the game from kick-off, playing with intensity and desire to win the game”.

Disbelief and mental exhaustion after the comeback against Chelsea last season

“Sometimes it might appear that I don’t express the pressure and tension that comes with my job but there are moments in your career when you suffer a lot. That’s quite normal. And that was one of those moments. All of the fans who were at the stadium that night played a part in that comeback”.

Gameplan against Liverpool, advice to the players to avoid any surprises

“We haven’t really spoken about that, only the good things and the bad things we did in the first leg. I think we did a lot of things well - especially in attack. We have to do the same tomorrow. We’re not going to worry about how many goals are needed - even if we have an advantage. We’ll be playing an open game, with the idea of taking the game to Liverpool and playing our best attacking football. The players understand that perfectly. I think it will be an open game because Liverpool will be trying to turn the tie around - which is to be expected. We will have to defend well and attack well but we are not thinking about just sitting back and defending”.

Is your relationship with Eden Hazard as cool as it appears from the outside? Why doesn’t he play?

“Our relationship isn’t cold. Look, you have to weigh up both things. Hazard has been very honest about this - it’s true, we don’t talk much. But being talkative is all about character - whether you feel more comfortable talking to one person rather than another. It’s the same with my kids, you have more confidence talking to one than another. That’s not the most important thing for me, what matters is that they respect me - whether we talk or not or however much they play. Like I respect him. That is what is important to me. What doesn’t he play? Hazard is facing a lot of competition and we can’t hide the fact that in that position, there is a player who brings a lot to the side, and that’s Vinicius”.

Vinicius, his attitude towards referees

“I am happy with the work he does and I don’t really look at things like that. In the last game, his attitude was exemplary. He’s focused on what he does out on the pitch which is the best for him”.

Camavinga, guaranteed starter

“He’s very important to us. He’s doing well and played some very good games. He’s also made mistakes, sometimes big ones, there are areas he has to improve, but then he will put in such a good game that people forget the errors he commits. For a young player with extraordinary talent, he’s progressing well. He’s a first-choice for now and will be in the future”.

In a game like this, what is more important, youth and energy in the centre of the park or experience?

“That’s a trick question! (smiles) And I will reply with a trick answer. Tomorrow, experience and energy will be important to us”.

Are you counting on Hazard for next season? How do you feel about tie that appear to be practically resolved?

“For next season, I will be counting on the players that the club make available to me. And, on a mental or psychological level, I think tomorrow’s game is more complicated for us than Liverpool. Liverpool will be coming here firing on all cylinders and trying to get the best possible right from the first minute of the game, whatever happens. The result from the first leg might seem deceptive. We will be going flat out from kick-off but it’s inevitable that we have more doubts than our rivals”

How is Benzema?

“He’s fully recovered. He’s is at 100%, he started training on Sunday and he’s put in some good sessions. He’s very motivated because, for Karim, for me, for the players, the club... this is a very important competition”.

How is Benzema feeling mentally?

“I don’t speak to Karim every day, I don’t speak to Hazard often and I am not chatting to Karim all the time either, but he seems fine to me, he’s motivated and fired up for the Liverpool game”.

Deschamps’ recent comments about Benzema and the Qatar World Cup, Do you support your player...

“No, no, no... that’s a personal issue, not for me. You’re talking to me about two of my players, because Deschamps was also one of my players. I respect him a lot as a player, as a person and as a coach in this... In Italy, we say it’s not right to poke a colleague, so I won’t do that. Will Karim be affected by it? I don’t think so because whatever has happened between them, it’s never mentioned. He doesn’t talk about it and I don’t think it’s something that bothers him”.

Vinicius is the team’s top scorer, is he now a reference like Benzema, Modric...?

“I think Vinicius is on the right path to make history at Real Madrid over the next few years - just like Kroos, Modric, Benzema, Casemiro did... a fantastic group of players, particularly in the Champions League”.

Will your experience of comebacks be of help to you in this tie against Liverpool?

“What happened in last year’s game against Chelsea is very much still in our minds. It will help us to plan this game differently. That’s why I think it’s important what I said earlier - we will be trying not to make any calculations. We want to repeat our peformance in the first leg”.