Ancelotti: Varane needs minutes and needs to play
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti seems set to get young defender Rafael Varane back into action for the team, ahead of the Copa del Rey semi-final second-leg at Atlético Madrid on Tuesday night, insisting that he now needs more games under his belt.
Ahead of the second-leg of the Copa del Rey semi-final against Atlético Madrid at the Vicente Calderón on Tuesday night, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti held his pre-match press conference on Monday lunchtime, with the first question fielded being that of concern about the fitness of Marcelo and Coentrao, who both had to retire injured from the weekend victory against Villarreal in La Liga.
“Both are available, but I still haven’t thought about the lineup for tomorrow. We’ll see tomorrow, but everyone is available.”
Continuing on the theme of defenders, Ancelotti was then asked if he had any concerns about Pepe and Ramos, given both are walking the suspension tightrope.
“We have no problems with either of them. The only thing I want to do is put Varane in there, so that one of the two can have a rest. Varane also needs minutes and needs to play.”
So with players having accumulated yellow cards that could see them miss the final, if they’re booked again during Tuesday’s game at Atlético, Ancelotti was then asked if there have been any special instructions given to those players to be mindful of their challenges.
“All we’ve spoken about in the hours ahead of the game, is preparing well. It’s no good preparing for a game thinking about not getting a card. If we have to take cards, we’ll take them. What we have to do is concentrate.”
Having mentioned that Varane is ready to play, the Italian coach then outlined what makes him such an important player to have available once more.
“He has everything required to be a good defender. He has quality, speed, a good head for tactics. He positions himself well defensively and brings his enthusiasm. It’s very important that he’s not injured. He’s recovered very well.”
Regarding the incidents on and off the pitch following the first-leg against Atlético, Ancelotti simply noted that it’s something to expect in a strong rivalry between teams of the same city.
“As I’ve said before, games between two teams in the same city are always more intense than normal. There’s more pressure and more intensity. There are words said on the pitch, but we’re going to prepare for a match and that’s all.”
Even though Real Madrid practically have a foot in the door towards reaching the final of the Copa del Rey, Ancelotti believes it’s best to forget they have such a clear advantage and focus on completing the job professionally at the Vicente Calderón.
“The best thing for us to do is not to think about the 3-0 advantage we have. It’s a difficult game and we know that Atlético are a very strong team. We have to play the way we did in the first-leg.”
Looking at the advantage his team has from another angle, Ancelotti then stressed that he doesn’t believe there will be any complacency.
“I don’t think there’ll be any problem with concentration for this match. We have to play with the same sort of attitude we did in the first-leg, so we avoid any problems, such as the intensity we showed, which is what we’ll look to achieve.”
Given all the recent controversies about referees in Spanish football, Ancelotti was then asked for his thoughts about how they compare to match officials elsewhere.
“I think that the difference in general compared to the other countries is that here, just like in Italy, there’s much more pressure on the referees than in other countries. When you have more pressure, it’s harder to do your job. In England it’s easier to referee, whereas it’s more complicated in Spain and Italy.”
The superb form of Jesé has been making headlines, but when it comes to his place in the starting eleven, nothing is guaranteed, though the Real Madrid manager underlined his value to the team.
“I think it’s impossible to think about a starting role for the whole season. Jesé is a very important player for the squad, just like Bale, just like Cristiano and just like Benzema. Fortunately for me as manager, there’s many games during the course of the season.”
One player who hasn’t had much fortune of late when it comes to getting starts, is Isco, with suggestions that he’s not getting a fair crack of the whip from the Italian coach. Ancelotti, who has previously spoken about the difficulty of fitting Isco into his preferred 4-3-3 system, accepted that the player is bound to be frustrated, but assured that he will get more opportunities and is a valuable member of the squad.
“That’s a very difficult question. Being fair, I’m not here to work for one player, but rather to work for Real Madrid and to do that, once in a while it could be that I’m not as fair with some players. It’s only natural if Isco isn’t happy. It’s also natural for him to be keen to play. As I’ve said before though, at this time he’s being penalised a little, but by the end of the season I hope that we can say he has been an important player for the team. He does well when he plays. We don’t have any doubts about his talent, or his future here.”
As for Cristiano Ronaldo and his enthusiasm to play, that will never diminish according to Ancelotti, who noted that with luck, his suspension will be reduced.
“Cristiano always wants to play. I don’t believe he has any more or less hunger to play against Atlético than against any other team. Hopefully the appeal against his suspension we’ve sent will work out well.”
Speaking of the resurgence of Real Madrid since an unconvincing start to the season, Ancelotti pointed out that his team are still battling on all fronts for silverware and are hungry to keep doing so.
“We’re doing well because we’re in three competitions, with desire and enthusiasm. This is an important time in the season.”
Croatian midfielder Luca Modric has also been in fine midfield form for Real Madrid and once more, Ancelotti noted that he’s much more settled at the club than he was last season.
“Last year was his first and he had to learn about Spanish football, get to know his team-mates better. Now he’s more comfortable. He’s playing really well in this atmosphere.”