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Every word Real Madrid coach Ancelotti said before El Clásico against Barcelona

He’s one of the most experienced coaches in the game but ahead of Sunday’s Clásico, Carlo Ancelotti admitted that fear is something that never leaves him before a big game.

Real Madrid's Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti addresses a press conference following a training session at the Ciudad Real Madrid training complex in Valdebebas, outskirts of Madrid, on March 18, 2023, on the eve of the Spanish league 'El Clasico' football match between Barcelona and Real Madrid. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Carlo Ancelotti has all of his first team squad available for Sunday’s Clásico, apart from David Alaba, who is expected to return after the international break. Castilla forward Álvaro Rodríguez will miss the game against Barcelona - he is suspended, having completed a cycle of bookings. The Italian coach looked ahead to the game after Saturday’s training session - his side head into the game nine points behind Barça in the table but he is not thinking about how much ground Madrid would need to make up if they lose at Camp Nou.

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What qualities are necessary to win an important game like El Clásico? “You have to enjoy the moment, be the protagonists in a big game, as always. Prepare well and play as best as you can. If you can bring out your best, you will have a chance of winning in every aspect - individually, collectively, on an attacking level and defensively”.

Four seasons at Madrid and nine trophies. Do you think you have earned the right to stay on as Madrid coach? “As I’ve said in the past, that’s an issue for the club to evaluate whether I continue or not. I have said many times that if it was up to me, I would stay at this club for the rest of my career, but that is impossible at a club like Real Madrid. The club will make a decision at the end of the season. My idea is to continue, I hope that is what happens. I enjoy every day here, as long the club still wants me. If that only last three months,then I will enjoy those three months; if it’s three years, then I’ll enjoy that too. The one thing I will say is that I will be eternally gratefully to this club”.

Continuing as coach if Madrid don’t win anything: “The rules change too, I’m convinced that we’ll win something, so that will be the end of the matter”.

If Madrid don’t win the Clásico, the title race is over: “I don’t know, we are not thinking about that. We are thinking about winning the match, if we don’t win, then we can think about our chances”.

Are you surprised that some people doubt players like Kroos and Modric? “Yes, that does surprise me. They are both still the best players”.

Madrid’s chances of silverware this season and the possibility of meeting Milan in the Champions League final: “It could happen. According to the stats, we are at a disadvantage in the Copa and LaLiga but that’s not the case in the Champions League. Anything can happen. Tomorrow we could reduce the distance between us and Barcelona in LaLiga and that’s what we want to do”.

Expecting a defensive-minded Barça: “It’s difficult to predict what kind of game we will see tomorrow. Every game is different. Barça defended more than usual (in The Copa del Rey semi-final) because they had a one-goal advantage. Tomorrow’s game could be different, it depends on what happens out on the pitch, if we score first or if they do”.

Will Madrid play a more attacking game in El Clásico? “Tomorrow we will play an attacking game, sure. Attacking without taking risks”.

Pragmatic Barça: “More than pragmatic, Barça is a very solid side, a team that concedes few goals, which implies they work well collectively. It has also helped them to win games even when they have suffered more than usual”.

Chelsea in the Champions League with the first leg in Madrid. Does that make it more difficult than last year? “I don’t know about that but last year, we benefitted a lot from playing the return leg at home. I don’t know if it’s a disadvantage or not. Now that away goals don’t count as double. I don’t think it changes much really. But to be honest, I’m not really thinking about that, but I’m sure that the Bernabéu will help us in the first leg”.

Vinicius versus Araújo: “Yes, it’s true that he has had more difficulties (in recent Clásicos), but Vinicius is always Vinicius. I think his movement can help him to show his best side tomorrow. I am thinking about playing him on the right, we’ll see... Vinicius can play on the right you know! Obviously, I wasn’t being serious - he’ll play on the left but able to roam more”.

Benzema: “He’s fine, he’ll play”.

Fear before El Clásico: “Tomorrow, we have to treat Barça as though they are a lion, not a cat. Anyone who thinks Barça are a cat, and the game is going to be a party, is mistaken. It’s not a party, it’s a very important game and we will need to be committed and strong and battle right to the very end. That said, I have always had fear and worries, - I don’t know whether it’s fear or anxiety but it’s always there, it never leaves you, and the hours leading up to the game are the hardest for me”.

Camavinga and Tchouameni: “At the moment, Eduardo is doing well. Like Tchouameni did in the first part of the season. They have replaced a club legend in Casemiro, the best player in that position for years. Madrid has a bright future with both of them”.

The plan against Barça: “We have a plan, both team know each other very well. We have no secrets. All of the pre-match planning is about how each team can punish the other. That will stay with us right up until the ref blows his whistle for kick-off”.

Madrid have hit peak form: “I think since 22 January, the team has been playing really well, the data confirms that. We’re in a good moment, mentally too; we’re motivated and excited about what could happen in the next three months. But also in technical and tactical terms, we have improved a lot. We are more solid at the back and more efficient in attack. Some games haven’t turned out well for us, but I think we can continue playing well right up until the end of the season”.

Why do you think Militão is one of the best defenders in the world? “For me he is, and I am quite an honest guy. Militão is among the best, I can’t say he is the best. He has everything, he’s fast, very good in one-on-one situations, good with the ball, he’s strong, good in the air... Maybe one defect is sometimes he loses concentration. He’s not perfect, or that good-looking either for that matter”.