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Bayern Munich host Real Madrid in Wednesday’s mouthwatering Champions League quarter-final, first-leg, with Carlo Ancelotti’s Bavarians looking once again to be the Spaniards’ ‘bete noire’.
And the subplots to the Allianz Arena clash are fascinating.
Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti coached Real to the 2014 Champions League crown and is up against his former assistant from that triumph, Madrid’s current head coach Zinedine Zidane.
World Cup 2010 winner Xabi Alonso, who also won the 2014 Champions League before joining Bayern, will face his ex-club for the last time before retiring in June.
And Real’s Germany midfielder Toni Kroos is another to be coming up against his former employers.
Ancelotti says “little things will make the difference” between the star-studded squads that will see two goal-scoring giants go head-to-head.
Bayern’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski, with 38 goals in all competitions this season, is up against Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, with 26 goals from 36 games.
That may be modest by his standards, but Ronaldo has tormented Bayern in the past with four goals in as many games and the Bavarians will be wary, especially with backup from Wales star Gareth Bale and France’s Karim Benzema.
Lewandowski suffered a bruised shoulder in scoring twice in Saturday’s 4-1 hammering of Borussia Dortmund, but expects to be “100 percent” fit.
Bayern are on a Champions League record of 16 straight European wins at the Allianz Arena and that’s a record Dutch winger Arjen Robben is keen to maintain.
“We have to up the ante, we have to signal (to Real) from the first minute that there is nothing to take in Munich and we want to win the game,” he said.
Bayern are looking to recover their ‘bete noire’ nickname, given to them by Real fans after Munich won eight of 14 matches against Real between 2000 and 2012.
All that changed in the 2014 Champions League’s semi-final when the team coached by Pep Guardiola was thrashed 4-0 in Munich, crashing out 5-0 on aggregate as Ronaldo and Sergio Ramos netted twice each.
That defeat remains Bayern’s record home European loss, yet there is no talk of revenge ahead of Wednesday’s clash.
“This is the quarter-finals, but it sounds like a final,” said Bayern captain Philipp Lahm.
“We’re playing against an absolute top team, who have top players in every position. We will have to play to our potential.”
Both sides are missing key defenders, though.
Germany’s Mats Hummels was ruled out after damaging ankle ligaments on Sunday so Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez will form the centre-back partnership.
Hummels faces a race against time to be back for the return at the Santiago Bernabeu on April 18, while Real have defenders Pepe and Raphael Varane ruled out of both legs.
Pepe suffered a double rib fracture in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Atletico Madrid, while Varane is out for a month with a hamstring injury.
Right-back Daniel Carvajal trained on his own on Monday and is struggling with a knock.
Bayern received a boost on Monday with Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer back in training following a minor foot operation 10 days ago, while Thomas Mueller is also fit after an ankle injury.
“We’re very confident. It’s a European cracker featuring two top teams,” said Mueller.
“We also notice it outside the club, not only in terms of the media, but also when talking to friends or acquaintances in Munich.
“Everyone’s talking about the game.”
Bayern Munich coach Carlo Ancelotti said their 4-1 romp against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League was the reaction he was looking for after a three-match winless streak.
Bayern bounced back in emphatic style on Wednesday at the Allianz Arena with winger Arjen Robben in outstanding form.
Goals by Thomas Mueller and Joshua Kimmich put Bayern ahead before Luciano Narsingh netted for Eindhoven before the break.
But Bayern dominated the second-half with Robert Lewandowski putting them 3-1 up before Robben, who had set up two of their goals, added the fourth.
The German media had spoken of a ‘mini-crisis’ after Bayern’s Bundesliga draws with Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt in the wake of their 1-0 defeat at Champions League Group D leaders Atletico Madrid.
Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge had branded their attitude in Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Frankfurt as “unacceptable”, but Ancelotti was pleased with his side’s response against PSV.
“That was the reaction I expect from the team, the attitude was good, we learnt our lessons from Frankfurt,” said the Italian, who had won his first eight games in charge before the Madrid defeat.
“We very happy to have Manuel Neuer,” Ancelotti added after the Germany goalkeeper pulled off a string of good saves to deny Eindhoven’s attack.
Bayern face PSV away in a fortnight, then travel to face Russian side Rostov before hosting Atletico in their final group match on December 6 in a game likely to decide who wins the pool.
“We played well, but we have to give our best in the next few games to make sure we play Atletico for first place,” warned Ancelotti.
Robben said Bayern deserved the win, but need to build on the performance when the Bundesliga leaders return to domestic duty at home to Borussia Moenchengladbach on Saturday.
“We started very well, dominated straight away and put them under pressure,” said the Dutchman as Mueller and Kimmich both netted in the first 21 minutes.
“We didn’t hold them very well after we went 2-0 up and you have to always be careful.
“Eindhoven were dangerous two or three times, but they we got back on top and deserved to win.
“We knew we had to start well, and be aggressive and play with self-confidence at home, after our three games without a win.
“We should have scored more in the first half, perhaps that is our only criticism, and we have to keep playing well like this.
“It was nice to get the header, but it was down to the beatiful pass from Thiago, he deserves the credit,” added the 32-year-old added after scoring his first headed goal in the Champions League.
Atletico Madrid haunted Bayern Munich once more as Yannick Carrasco inflicted Carlo Ancelotti’s first defeat as coach of the German giants with a 1-0 win at the Vicente Calderon in the Champions League on Wednesday.
The Spaniards eliminated Bayern on away goals in the semi-finals of last season’s Champions League and there was to be no revenge for the five-time European champions as Carrasco drove the ball in off the inside of the post 10 minutes before half-time.
Thomas Mueller had Bayern’s best effort, but was denied by a sensational save from Jan Oblak early on as the German champions failed to score on Spanish soil for the fourth consecutive trip.
And Atletico could even afford the luxury of missing a penalty seven minutes from time when Antoine Griezmann rattled the bar from the spot.
“I feel so proud to be the coach of this team,” said Simeone, who extended his incredible home record as Atletico coach to just one defeat in 18 home Champions League games.
“I liked everything today. We pressed high, took advantage of spaces on the counter-attack and played with intensity for 90 minutes which is very difficult to do against one of the best teams in the world.
“It was one of the best performances in my time at Atletico Madrid.”
Victory takes Atletico top of Group D with six points from their opening two games. Bayern remain second on three points with FC Rostov and PSV Eindhoven on one each after a 2-2 draw in Russia.
Defeat was Bayern’s first since they last visited the Calderon in April.
“It was a difficult game, as we expected. Atletico played as we expected,” said Ancelotti.
“After the goal we tried to get back into the game, but we played too slowly and that is why we didn’t have a lot of chances.”
Bayern’s first serious attempt on goal was their best as Mueller smashed a volley goalwards on 14 minutes that was brilliantly beaten away by Oblak.
Not to be outdone, Bayern stopper Manuel Neuer produced a great save of his own as he got down low to his left to turn Carrasco’s first effort of the night to safety.
Torres missed a glorious chance to open the scoring when he somehow turned Koke’s corner against the post from point-blank range with the goal gaping.
However, Atletico finally went in front when Griezmann collected a loose ball and freed Carrasco on the left. The Belgian strode forward before unleashing a powerful effort in off the far post.
Bayern took a long time to muster a response as Ancelotti brought on Arjen Robben and the on-form Joshua Kimmich.
Neuer parried another powerful low effort from Carrasco to keep Bayern in the game midway through the second half.
The visitors finally began to threaten in the final 15 minutes as Robert Lewandowski’s glancing header flew inches wide of the far post.
Robben then drove a shot just wide from the edge of the box.
However, it was the hosts who had the best chance to extend their advantage when Arturo Vidal cynically chopped down Filipe Luis inside the area.
Griezmann stepped up to take it, but just as in their Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid in May, he smashed his spot-kick against the bar to give Bayern a lifeline.
Ancelotti’s men had one final chance to rescue a point, but Robben’s header drifted harmlessly over as Atletico held on to secure another major European scalp under Simeone.
The fat lady may be clearing her throat at Euro 2016 but the three tenors of the coaching world Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho are due for the first rehearsals with their new club sides.
All three are renowned not only for their coaching ability — they have all won multiple Champions Leagues — but also their vastly different characters.
For Manchester City’s Guardiola and Manchester United’s Mourinho it sometimes borders on the cult of personality.
Ancelotti will not have to put up with Mourinho’s penchant for barbed comments as he has replaced Guardiola in the Bayern Munich hotseat.
One remark that Mourinho will unable to drag back out is labelling Claudio Ranieri a “loser” — the Italian silenced that one by guiding Leicester City to a shock Premier League title last term.
However, the football world can expect sparks to fly between Mourinho and Guardiola, especially now they are both in the same city.
A bitter rivalry between the two already exists from their time in Spain when Mourinho’s Madrid ended Guardiola’s glorious reign at Barcelona by winning La Liga in 2012.
Many will hope the Mourinho who pitches up at United will not be the highly strung out-of-sorts figure who left Chelsea under a cloud last term.
Usually Mourinho’s early days at a club are more civil and respectful, even if that often turns out to be a false dawn.
The 53-year-old Mourinho shrugs off the criticism of his combative nature designed to get under the skin of his rivals on the touchline.
Unsurprisingly, one of the Portuguese’s greatest admirers is Alex Ferguson, no stranger himself to the mind games of Premier League management.
“I look at Jose and I see myself reflected in many of the things he does,” said Ferguson.
“We’re only human. We can’t hide our emotions. They’re always there, they’re part of who we are, of our character.”
While Mourinho lets his emotions bubble to the surface, 45-year-old Guardiola seems self-contained and almost cold in his press conferences, only once letting the mask slip when Mourinho had provoked him one too many times.
This coldness appears to be borne out by the man who replaced him at Barcelona and his former assistant Tito Vilanova’s testament about when he was undergoing treatment for cancer in New York, where Guardiola had gone on sabbatical.
“He visited me once in New York when I’d just arrived, but during my recovery from the operation… I was there for two months and I didn’t see him,” Vilanova said in July 2013, nine months before he died.
At Madrid the 57-year-old succeeded Mourinho and, much to the chagrin of the latter, coached them to their long-awaited 10th European Cup trophy. A feat Mourinho was hired to achieve, but failed to deliver in his three years in the Spanish capital.
Mourinho’s spell at Real turned sour with the players — he dropped iconic goalkeeper Iker Casillas — and even when Real’s form dipped in Ancelotti’s second season in Madrid a star-studded squad made clear their preference for the Italian.
“I think we are a better team now than under Mourinho in all aspects of the game. I think this is clear to see for all — for both fans and journalists,” said Real defender Sergio Ramos.
“I don’t like this injustice, where one coach gets all the credit, whereas the other doesn’t get recognition.
“I go by what I have experienced, not by what I have been told. It is enough to look at what he has won here and how long it took.”
Ancelotti, like Guardiola a Champions League winner as a player and as a coach, has become phlegmatic about the insecurities of the job.
“My ass is earthquake-proof,” he told The Financial Times in 2014, summing up how his fear of the sack has diminished over the years.
Pep Guardiola will leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season after the Spaniard decided not to extend his contract at the German champions, who announced on Sunday that multiple Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti had signed a three-year deal to replace him.
Bayern Chief Executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge confirmed the much-anticipated change in manager, thanking Guardiola for his work and confirming that a deal for Italian Ancelotti, who has been out of a job since leaving Real Madrid in the close season, had been completed.
“We are thankful to Guardiola for all he gave our club and hope to celebrate more success in the current season,” Rummenigge said in a statement.
“I am convinced that Pep and the team will work harder to reach the big sporting aims of the club, especially now that it is clear that Pep will leave.”
Bayern had repeatedly said they wanted Guardiola to stay at the club, but his departure had been widely predicted, with media reports saying a move to the Premier League was on the cards.
A number of top English clubs are likely to be eying up the 44-year-old, who has consolidated his standing as one of Europe’s top coaches since joining Bayern in 2013 after winning a remarkable 14 titles in four years at Barcelona.
The Spaniard, who has yet to comment on his decision to quit the club and has already left Munich for a winter holiday, took over after Bayern’s treble-winning season under Jupp Heynckes in 2012-13.
He has maintained their domestic dominance with back-to-back league titles and a German Cup in his first two seasons in charge, while also overhauling the playing squad.
Homegrown talents like club icon Bastian Schweinsteiger and Toni Kroos have left on Guardiola’s watch while Spaniards Thiago Alcantara and Xabi Alonso have been among the arrivals.
Bayern, however, have maintained their stranglehold on the Bundesliga, winning titles and breaking records in the process.
One blot on Guardiola’s copybook has been his failure to win the Champions League with Bayern losing in the semi-finals on their previous two attempts.
His arrival was intended to herald the start of an extended period of European domination after Heynckes clinched Europe’s elite club competition in his final season at Bayern.
Guardiola will have one last shot at clinching the Champions League with Bayern this season after his side comfortably reached the knockout stage, while they remain on course to win another domestic title and top the table by eight points heading into the winter break.
Guardiola is revered among Bayern fans for his knowledge of the game and his team’s ruthless efficiency that has seen them break several records en route to their last two league titles.
He has, however, also faced criticism for his run-in with a former long-time Bayern doctor, who once accused the Spaniard of blaming the medical staff for a defeat, and for allowing club great Schweinsteiger to leave last season.
In replacing Guardiola, who won the Champions League twice with former club Barcelona, Bayern have opted for a man with three European Cup successes to his name.
“Carlo Ancelotti has enjoyed success as a coach everywhere and has won the Champions League three times,” Rummenigge said.
“Carlo is a quiet, balanced professional who knows how to deal with stars and play a game with a lot of variety. That is what we were looking for and that is what we found.”
The 56-year-old Ancelotti won the Champions League twice with AC Milan and once with Real Madrid while also winning a string of other titles with Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Juventus.
“I am very honoured that I will be the coach of the big FC Bayern Munich from next season,” Ancelotti said.
It was always going to be a tough task for Rafa Benitez to replace his popular, Champions League winning predecessor Carlo Ancelotti at Real Madrid and Saturday’s woeful 4-0 home defeat to Barcelona has turned the pressure up a notch.
Facing widespread criticism for a game plan that seemed to fail calamitously, the Madrid press have not held back in blaming Benitez for a second straight defeat that left them six points adrift of their arch rivals at the top of La Liga.
‘Benitez sentenced’ ran the headline in Marca on Sunday, with the newspaper claiming it is only a matter of time before the coach is axed.
His future is in the hands of club president Florentino Perez, who has seen numerous managers come and go and whose own role is under the spotlight.
Chants of “Florentino resign” rang out from all corners of the Bernabeu at the end of each half in Saturday’s trouncing.
It was Perez who had pulled the trigger on Ancelotti at the end of last season, 12 months after the affable Italian had claimed an historic 10th European title for the club.
Benitez arrived at Madrid with the unwanted tag of preferring a more pragmatic and defensive game than his predecessor.
He was, however, widely seen as someone who would be prepared to compromise tactically, in order to keep Perez happy, with the president known to prefer attacking teams packed full of high-profile players.
This seemed to be the case on Saturday when he sacrificed defensive midfielder Carlos Casemiro from his starting lineup for the one-sided encounter that was decided by a double strike from Luis Suarez and goals for Neymar and Andres Iniesta.
Casemiro has generally been Benitez’s preferred option as a midfield anchor alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, but rather than continue with this strategy he decided to field the more high-profile attacking talent James Rodriguez.
Similarly, star-turn Karim Benzema started in attack and played the full 90 minutes despite the fact that he was returning from injury and looked off the pace, giving the Barca defence a largely comfortable evening.
Real found it difficult to build through midfield and Rodriguez was replaced by Isco in the second half.
The Colombian was, however, by no means the only one to blame for Real’s poor display, as Gareth Bale, playing through the centre behind Benzema, was also largely anonymous.
Cristiano Ronaldo, so often Real’s hero in the past, had their best chances but was denied by quick reactions from Barcelona keeper Claudio Bravo.
The Portuguese, whose relationship with Benitez has been scrutinised by Spanish media, has not scored in three games.
When Madrid defender Sergio Ramos was asked after the match about Benitez’s relationship with the dressing room compared to that of Ancelotti, his response was less than a full endorsement of his current coach.
“It depends on how you value it. When a trainer is there for two or three years like Ancelotti then you have a closer feeling,” he told reporters.
But with questions circling about Benitez’s future, Ramos denied that change was the answer.
“It is necessary to be more united than ever with the president and the coach,” he told reporters.
“When you lose a game against Barcelona the fans are going to be unhappy. They want answers and do it by whistling.”
Carlo Ancelotti says he would like to return to England’s Premier League but the Italian manager with one of the most garlanded records in world football is not interested in taking any new job this season.
Ancelotti, who won the Premier League-FA Cup double with Chelsea during his previous stint in English football, has had his name linked with a possible return to Stamford Bridge following the London club’s early season woes under Jose Mourinho.
Yet talking to BBC Radio on Sunday, Ancelotti ruled out the prospect of any return to the game in 2014-15, effectively ruling out the possibility that he would take over this season should Mourinho’s increasingly shaky reign come to an end.
Ancelotti, who has also been touted as a possible successor to Manchester City’s Manuel Pellegrini, said the Premier League was his “number one choice” for a return to the game.
He is taking a break from football following his successful reign at Real Madrid, which saw him win the Champions League for a third time after two triumphs with AC Milan.
“The most important thing is to find a club with a good project and be competitive. If it’s in England, it’s better,” Ancelotti, who has been living in Vancouver since his dismissal by Madrid in May, said.
“I will stay out until the end of the season and try to find another club next season. Not just in England, it can be in another country, but my idea is not to start now.”
The 56-year-old, who was sacked a year after winning the double with Chelsea in 2010, backed the club’s recent statement of support for the under-pressure Mourinho.
“Chelsea are used to competing at the top level. They have lost a little bit of confidence in their play and arrived at bad results. Slowly they can move on from this situation,” he said.
“Mourinho is the best person to manage this because he is the one involved, he knows the situation and the condition of the players and the club took the right decision to stay with Mourinho.”
Real Madrid fired their coach Carlo Ancelotti on Monday, club president Florentino Perez said, making the popular Italian pay for a disappointing season without a major trophy.
“The board of directors has taken the decision this afternoon to relieve Carlo Ancelotti of his duties as coach of Real Madrid,” Perez told a news conference at the club’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
“It has been a very hard decision… but Real Madrid is extremely demanding and we believe it is time to give a new impulse” to the club.
The former AC Milan and Chelsea coach leaves Madrid after just two years in the job having failed to convert a record run of victories last year into silverware at the end of this season.
Madrid had won the Club World Cup on a streak of 22 consecutive wins between September and December to add to the Copa del Rey and UEFA Super Cup in a record four-trophy haul in 2014.
But they were beaten to the Spanish league title by a treble-seeking Barcelona and eliminated by city rivals Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey.
Ancelotti’s last chance of keeping his job was ended when one of his former clubs, Juventus, knocked Real out of the Champions League earlier this month to progress to the final.
That was too much for the club’s management, despite Ancelotti’s popularity with fans and players.
Media have reported that Napoli’s Spanish coach Rafael Benitez is the favourite to replace him.
Perez said the new coach would be named next week.
If there is one lesson Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has learned during his two seasons in Spain it is that resting on your laurels is not an option at the world’s richest club by income.
After leading Real to a record-extending 10th European crown and a King’s Cup triumph last term, Real have failed to win any of the three major trophies in 2014-15 and speculation has already been swirling for weeks about the Italian’s future.
Club director Emilio Butragueno pointedly refused to confirm Ancelotti will see out his contract, which runs for another season, after Real were knocked out of the Champions League by Juventus on Wednesday.
The former Real and Spain forward did so again following Barcelona’s victory at Atletico Madrid on Sunday, which secured a fifth La Liga title in seven years with a game to spare for Real’s arch rivals, who are also through to the finals of the Champions League and King’s Cup.
They are on course to repeat 2009’s historic treble, something neither Real or any other Spanish club have achieved.
“It is not something to be said now,” Butragueno told Spanish television when asked about Ancelotti’s future.
“And this is not the place either,” he added. “There is one match left and after that we’ll see.”
Ancelotti is a vastly experienced coach, having won the Champions League twice previously while in charge at AC Milan, and appears to be taking it all in his stride.
He had to watch Real’s 4-1 victory at Espanyol on Sunday from the stands due to a touchline ban and was captured on television calmly smoking a cigarette during the game.
Among names to have been linked with his job are Borussia Dortmund coach Juergen Klopp, who is leaving the Bundesliga side at the end of the season.
Jose Mourinho, Rafa Benitez and Julen Lopetegui have also been mentioned, while it seems too early for former Real and France great Zinedine Zidane to step up from his current post as assistant coach of Real’s B team.
Ancelotti hinted he would continue next season.
“As always, I would like to win the most important competition, which is the Champions League, but also La Liga,” Ancelotti told reporters.
“This year I was very close but we will try again next,” added the 55-year-old.
Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti said he isn’t the man to judge whether he will stay in charge of the Spanish giants next season after Juventus dumped the holders out of the Champions League.
The Italian champions will face Madrid’s eternal rivals Barcelona in the final on June 6 after former Real striker Alvaro Morata struck the vital away goal to secure a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their semi-final on Wednesday night as Juventus progressed 3-2 on aggregate.
Madrid now look certain to end the season without having won a major trophy as Barca also lead La Liga by four points with just two games remaining.
And Ancelotti could even have overseen his last match from the bench at the Bernabeu after he was given a two-match touchline ban earlier on Wednesday for sarcastically applauding the referee at the end of his side’s 2-2 draw with Valencia at the weekend.
“I don’t have to think (about my future),” said the Italian.
“If the club are happy with what I have done in these two years then I will stay.
“My future for me is decided. I would like to stay here but I know how things are in football and the club have the right to change the coach if they want to.
“I am satisfied with my work here, above all because I have a very good relationship with the players and support from the club in good and bad moments. I evaluate my time in a positive manner.”
Cristiano Ronaldo’s first-half penalty looked to have Madrid on course for arguably the biggest club match of all time against Barca.
However, a combination of poor finishing and some excellent goalkeeping from Gianluigi Buffon prevented the hosts from building on their lead and Juventus shut up shop after Morata had put them back in front in the tie just before the hour mark.
“We lacked very little, it was small details,” lamented Ancelotti.
“We didn’t have a lot of luck. If we had luck to win the Champions League in the last minute (last season) then maybe we lacked it tonight.
“If I have to criticise something it would be the way we played in the first leg. I thank my players because they have worked as hard as they could.”
The hero from last season’s final in Lisbon, Sergio Ramos, was partly to blame for Juventus’ goal as he played Paul Pogba onside before Morata rifled home the Frenchman’s knockdown.
However, the Spanish international also blamed Madrid’s failure to convert their chances as the reason they fell short at the semi-final stage for the fourth time in five years.
“After the first goal we thought it was done,” said Ramos.
“We have to congratulate them. They have gone through because they have done things better.
“It wasn’t just one game but two. Here we didn’t score enough goals and weren’t efficient in front of goal. “
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has hit back at Gareth Bale’s agent for suggesting the Wales winger’s team mates do not pass to him enough, telling Jonathan Barnett it would have been better to keep quiet.
Bale’s disappointing second season in Spain hit a new low with a poor performance for the holders in last week’ Champions League defeat at Juventus and he again failed to spark in Saturday’s 2-2 La Liga draw at home to Valencia.
The 25-year-old has been whistled by disgruntled fans at the Bernabeu, a startling turnaround for a player who scored in the finals of the Champions League and the King’s Cup last term, but has a chance to redeem himself when Real host Juve for the return leg on Wednesday.
“This is a world in which a lot of people talk and sometimes they talk too much,” Ancelotti told a news conference on Tuesday.
“Bale’s agent spoke who has never been to one of our training sessions, who doesn’t know the atmosphere we have, who spoke from outside,” added the Italian.
“Bale has never had problems with his team mates and his team mates have never had problems with Bale.
“So too many words and it would have been better to stay quiet. We are happy with Bale’s season.”
Ancelotti confirmed Real would have forward Karim Benzema available on Wednesday when they will seek to keep alive their hopes of a record-extending 11th European Cup crown.
Benzema has been sidelined for around a month with a knee problem and Real have lacked potency in attack without the France international.
“He has recovered well but he is a player who hasn’t featured for a month,” said Ancelotti.
“That’s the doubt I have, whether to put him on for the start or after the game has begun, in the second half when the rhythm of the match has dropped a bit.”
Ancelotti also had words of support for goalkeeper and captain Iker Casillas who has been blamed by some fans for Real’s recent woes.
“It’s a shame but Casillas has a lot of experience and is used to it and I don’t think it will affect him but will motivate him more,” he said.
“Sometimes it’s understandable but other times not and I think tomorrow will be different. All the fans will understand how important this match is.”
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has leapt to the defence of World Player of the Year Cristiano Ronaldo after criticism of his behaviour towards his teammates in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Almeria.
Ronaldo failed to find the net for the third consecutive game in the routine win over the Andalusians and showed his frustration when Alvaro Arbeloa sneaked ahead of him to turn in Javier Hernandez’s cross for Madrid’s third.
Ronaldo kicked the ball into the net in anguish and jogged back to the halfway line rather than celebrating the goal, whilst selfish play at other times in the game was met with whistles and boos from a minority of the Bernabeu faithful.
“He has scored all those goals because he has character and he always wants to improve,” Ancelotti said on Friday.
“That is the reason he has scored so many goals for such a long time. I don’t understand people in the Bernabeu who boo Cristiano.”
Madrid now face a season-defining four-game stretch in 10 days that will see them face Champions League-chasing Sevilla and Valencia in La Liga, as well as Ancelotti’s old side in Juventus in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
However, Los Blancos should be boosted by the return of Gareth Bale for the visit to Sevilla on Saturday, while Karim Benzema could be fit to face the Italian champions in Turin on Tuesday.
“Bale has trained with the team. He is fine and I think he will be available for tomorrow,” Ancelotti added.
“Benzema is doing individual work, we will see on Sunday or Monday if he can be with the team.
“We are not going to take risks because it is not the final game of the season. It could be that they are available to play without taking risks, but not for 90 minutes.”
Despite missing Bale, Benzema and Luka Modric in recent weeks, Madrid have kept up their quest for success at home and on the continent with six consecutive wins in La Liga, allied to progress to the last four of the Champions League with a tense 1-0 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid in the quarter-finals.
However, despite his indifferent form this season, Ancelotti insists that Bale can offer a different dimension to his side in the final month of the season.
“The team has reacted very well to the injuries we have had to Modric, Bale and Benzema.
“Bale will help us because he is fresher than others and at this stage of the season that could be very important.”
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti did not mince his words after the Champions League holders managed to get past Schalke 04 into the quarter-finals by the skin of their teeth on Tuesday and were whistled off the pitch.
Real slumped to a stunning 4-3 home reverse to the battling Bundesliga side, who came within a goal of pulling off a remarkable upset after losing last month’s first leg in Gelsenkirchen 2-0.
“There are problems across the board,” the Italian told a news conference. “In attack, in defence, in a lack of fight, motivation and concentration,” he added.
“It is not good for our image and that of the club. The whistles were totally justified.
“We have to work harder and focus more. We have to have more of everything.”
It was the latest poor performance from Ancelotti’s expensively-assembled team, who surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona when they were beaten 1-0 at Athletic Bilbao at the weekend, and their first home defeat in Europe’s elite club competition since April 2011.
In recent weeks, Real have been a shadow of the side that romped to a Spanish record 22 straight wins at the end of last year and Ancelotti said Tuesday’s showing confirmed the team were playing “very badly”.
Real have little time to set things right with a trip to Barca for the La Liga ‘Clasico’ looming on March 22.
Barca’s front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have been in prolific form since the turn of the year, while Real’s forwards Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale have gone off the boil.
Ronaldo did score twice on Tuesday, taking his tally in European competition to a record 78 goals, but it did not mask what was a generally disappointing showing from the team.
One bright spot was the return from a long-term injury of Luka Modric, who came on as a second-half substitute.
Real have missed the control he gives them in central midfield and he was given a huge ovation when he replaced the ineffective Sami Khedira.
“He will give us more control of the ball, so we are more effective,” Ancelotti said.
“We can’t demand too much of him, we have to take things slowly. He played well for 30 minutes and he will help us.”
(Reuters) – Cristiano Ronaldo was all smiles when he left the pitch following Real Madrid’s 2-0 Champions League round of 16 first leg win at Schalke 04 on Wednesday, safe in the knowledge that his goal-scoring form was back.
The Portuguese world player of the year had not scored for three games which must feel like an eternity for the prolific Ronaldo.
He put Real ahead in Gelsenkirchen, taking his Champions League goal tally to 73, two short of Lionel Messi’s record, before setting up Marcelo for the Spanish side’s second goal late in the game.
“He scored, he played well and gave an assist. Cristiano is back,” a relieved Real coach Carlo Ancelotti told reporters.
“Today we needed a game like that, with this attitude, a good game. Everything went well.”
Eliminated by Atletico Madrid in the King’s Cup, crushed 4-0 by their city rivals in La Liga to see their lead cut to one point, Real bounced back with a lacklustre 2-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna last week.
But with their fans’ jeers and whistles growing louder by the week, it was Ronaldo who took charge with a match-winning performance, helping Real notch a record-equalling 10th Champions League victory in a row.
“Look at his quality,” Schalke 04 coach Roberto Di Matteo said.
“He goes into the box once and scores a goal. Then he sets up the second. The quality made the difference tonight.”
With Real chasing an 11th European Cup and attempting to become the first team to successfully defend their Champions League title, Ronaldo’s goals will be key.
“Cristiano is not obsessed with scoring,” Marcelo said. “Goals come when the team works together.”
Real Madrid are turning the corner after a stuttering start to the year and Wednesday’s Champions League Round of 16 first leg at Schalke 04 will prove it, coach Carlo Ancelotti said.
The title holders, aiming to become the first team to retain the Champions League crown, will have defender Pepe fit for the game, the Italian said.
Real, chasing their 11th European Cup, have struggled this year, having been knocked out of the King’s Cup by Atletico Madrid while a 4-0 drubbing at their city rivals in La Liga this month cut their lead over second-placed Barcelona to a point.
“With such a result (against Atletico) it is important to turn the corner quickly. We did it well against Deportivo La Coruna (with a 2-0 win). But we can improve and we want to show that tomorrow,” Ancelotti told reporters on Tuesday.
He sounded confident Cristiano Ronaldo will quickly rediscover his scoring form with the Portugal captain off colour since winning a third FIFA Ballon d’Or award last month.
He again failed to score in Saturday’s unconvincing win at home to Deportivo and has managed only four goals this year, low by his prolific standard.
“Against Deportivo I think he looked physically very good. He had the intensity. I think he is constantly improving. He has not scored yet but tomorrow he has the chance to do it.”
No club has retained the Champions League trophy since its introduction in 1992/93 and Ancelotti said a return to Schalke, after demolishing them 6-1 at the same stage last year before going on to win the title, was a good omen.
“This is fantastic motivation for us,” Ancelotti, who won back-to-back European Cup titles as a player at AC Milan in 1989 and 1990, said.
“We were here (at Schalke) with the dream to win it last year and we are here this year and we have the same dream.
“History will say it is really difficult, almost impossible but we have to try,” he said.