NEWS STORY. 16/05/2023. Photographer: Antonio Villalba and Pedro Castillo
Carlo Ancelotti spoke in the press room at the Etihad Stadium on the eve of the clash with Manchester City in the return leg of the Champions League semi-finals (9pm CET): “My plan is the same as always: to try to get the best out of our team both individually and collectively. This is going to be a match that will demand a lot from us and we can perform better than we did in the first leg. That's what we'll try to do tomorrow. Courage and personality are extremely important factors in this type of game. I want to see my team read the game well.”
“This is my fourth year at this club. I've enjoyed my time and I enjoy every day. It's my legacy to coach this team and these players and try to get the best out of the squad. We're very close to doing something significant and we're well up for it. We know it's really hard, but the challenges push us to perform at our best.”
“Rüdiger can play, as can Camavinga, Militão or Alaba. I'd like to apologise for what I said in the Getafe press conference because it was a misunderstanding, as I thought they were talking about Rodrygo. I'm lucky enough to have all my players available and this makes it more difficult to choose the line-up, but it also makes me sure that if we win, I'll be right in my line-up and if we don't win, I'll be wrong. That's the only thing I am sure about. I have the line-up in my head.”
Four midfielders or three forwards?
“The idea of Valverde out wide allowed us to win the Champions League last year and the three forwards up top allowed us to get to the semi-final by winning a lot of games. The decision isn't easy, but it's already been made.”
Have they been practising penalties?
“We don't think about this because that would be wrong. You might get to penalties, but it's difficult to practise penalties because it's something that's so environmental and it's impossible to create that atmosphere. We're thinking about winning the game first.”
“Like everyone else, he's very excited and well up for it. There is no issue of a lack of concentration and motivation in this type of match, I'm not going to discuss it. If you're not focused in a Champions League semi-final, you can't play football.”
"Militão is fine, like the others. He's fresh, like Rüdiger. I think the squad is doing really well and we're at full strength for this game. It couldn't be any other way. It's a game we've been thinking about for a long time.”
Details that can make a difference
“Courage is a fundamental element in this type of match. On an individual level, the two teams are evenly matched, but courage makes the difference in a game like this, where you have to know how to hold on and fight.”
Premier League signings
“This issue doesn't enter the heads of the players, who are the stars of the game. What does enter their heads is the excitement of playing a match like this and the anxiety of facing a very strong team. Politics stays out of the player's head.”
“Today I'm really calm, very excited and full of belief. Tomorrow, I know it'll be a day of worry. Haaland is going to score, De Bruyne is going to shoot from outside the area. You have to forget about this and believe that Vinicius can do a good trick or that Karim can be smart from the penalty spot. You have to manage your thoughts and think positively. We're so happy to get here. For a club like Real Madrid it's pretty normal, because they've reached a semi-final 11 times out of 13, but it's not that easy. So we'll enjoy it for as long as we can, and that's today.”
“I don't think about it. I justv say what comes out. Courage and personality in these matches are extremely important components. These are matches where the pressure is extremely high and you don't always have the personality and character to display your quality, which is huge in all players. But sometimes that aspect detracts a little bit from your quality. I want my team to be able to read the situations of the game well, because there will be tough moments when you have to hold on.”
How to stop Haaland
“In the first leg we were outstanding in the way we played the ball out from the back and it was difficult for them to win it back. That will also be an important factor tomorrow. Having more of the ball means less risk defensively. When we assess a team, we don't just assess one player. We have to approach the game well defensively. With my coaching staff, we figured that if they have to score, they should score early and that way we have more time to recover.”
What type of game will it be?
“I don't think it's going to be too different to the first leg, but you're going to see some tweaks from City and Madrid. There are things we can improve on from last week and they can too. But we're not going to see such a different game to the first leg. City have the best team in Europe right now and I'm sure it will be a thrilling game with plenty of excitement.”
The club’s legacy
“It's not easy to explain, but I think that for Real Madrid the Champions League is something special because of its history, which has been enriched in the first few years with the five European Cups. For everyone involved in this club, it's something special. I think this is what marks the difference in history. This is a club that is capable of keeping this history going with Di Stéfano, Gento or Amancio, and this history is still alive. This is one of the great strengths of this club. The players who have made history at this club are never forgotten.”
Is it more about history or current form?
“It's hard to say. You can't predict the match. It doesn't matter if you're the best team in the world, you're not 100 per cent guaranteed to win the game. It's not only about quality. The psychological part, the personality, the character and the mindset can support you in the difficult moments when we are struggling.”
On the quality of the opposition
“In transitions they're very strong and dangerous, but in the first leg we controlled the game. I don't think we'll see many transitions tomorrow. City will come out swinging and are likely to score in the first ten minutes. We all remember exactly what happened last year on this same stage.”