Ancelotti blasts calendar demands on Real Madrid stars and says players are football's forgotten men

By Sports Desk April 21, 2023

Carlo Ancelotti accused football's authorities of punishing players by packing the calendar with too many games as the Real Madrid boss faces a hectic finish to the season.

Victims of their own success, Madrid have a Copa del Rey final against Osasuna coming up in May, plus two legs of a Champions League semi-final against Manchester City, while also vying to finish as high as possible in LaLiga.

They will play on every weekend and in every midweek through to the start of June, which leaves Ancelotti with a tough task to keep his players fit and healthy.

He is eager not to suggest any weakness in his ranks, stressing Madrid would be able to recover between games, but it is far from a satisfactory situation for the veteran Italian coach.

He said: "The schedule doesn't make sense. It's too tight, with too many games. You have to evaluate a little the health of the players, who are the most important part of football.

"Here everyone thinks about themselves: LaLiga, the federation, UEFA, FIFA. The players don't count for anything for them and this is not correct. Something has to be changed, there are too many games.

"I have also heard that we have given too many days off. I looked at the calendar and I told myself I was wrong but no. In four months, since December 30, we have had eight days off, not taking into account the national team break. There have been only eight."

The former Milan and Chelsea boss added: "Right now, the rotation depends only on giving rest to the players that I see as the most tired, and to have more players in good physical condition.

"I have to give minutes to keep the players physically fit in the final stretch of the season."

He spoke of the need to carefully manage the likes of veteran captain Karim Benzema, who was substituted late in the game as Madrid completed their European quarter-final win at Chelsea on Tuesday.

"I took him off in London because when I think the game is over I want to preserve the players and give them a bit more rest," Ancelotti said.

The coach said Benzema is now "fine" and in contention to start the LaLiga home clash with Celta Vigo on Saturday.

On the horizon are the clashes with Pep Guardiola's City, a repeat of last season's Champions League semi-final that Madrid won with an extraordinary late comeback in the second leg.

Ancelotti took pride from hearing former Barcelona boss Guardiola say Madrid remain the team to beat in the competition.

"Yes, Madrid are highly respected and that's a good thing," Ancelotti said. "And that a coach like Guardiola says it, it's even better."

He expects a tremendous battle against a City side who last season typically played with a 'false nine' striker but now have the most predatory goal-getter in Europe in Erling Haaland.

"We are teams that can play differently," Ancelotti said. "I don't think they have completely changed their style, just that they have such a strong striker that the way of attacking changes a bit compared to last year. City can play a transition or possession game without problems."

As for whether City are favourites this time, Ancelotti added: "I don't know. It is not a subject that is in my head. We have to know that we are very close to a final, that they are a very strong rival in a very even tie. Let's see what happens."

Madrid trail leaders Barcelona by 11 points in LaLiga, so their hopes of a successful title defence look bleak at this stage.

City rivals Atletico Madrid could help out Los Blancos by winning at Camp Nou on Sunday; however, third-placed Atletico are just two points behind Madrid, so what may appear to be a favour, should a surprise result occur, could also spell trouble for Ancelotti.

"They are going to fight until the last moment for second place, which is important," Ancelotti said of Atletico. "They are on an important run and playing very well."

Madrid will not take Celta lightly, particularly with the likes of Spain striker Iago Aspas and much-coveted midfielder Gabri Veiga in their ranks.

"Yes I like him," Ancelotti said, when asked about Veiga. "They have quality players, like Iago Aspas, who are doing very well."

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