Carlo Ancelotti does not believe he deserves credit for Vinicius Junior's improvement, while the Real Madrid coach is backing Eden Hazard to find his best level again this season.

Karim Benzema has undoubtedly been Madrid's standout player this season, with the Frenchman's 19 goal involvements across all competitions bettered by only Mohamed Salah (20) in Europe's top five leagues, but Vinicius' form has also provided a real positive.

In each of his previous three seasons at Madrid, Vinicius had underperformed in relation to his expected goals (xG) value, backing up the idea he was wasteful and lacked the ability to be decisive.

This season, however, Vinicius has seven goals across all competitions from an xG value of 5.2, suggesting he is proving more reliable when presented with chances and also sniffing out greater opportunities in the first place.

With 10 goal involvements, Vinicius has already reached his total from last season and is just two behind his personal best of 12 for an entire campaign (2018-19).

Many have praised Ancelotti's influence for this, but the Italian insists he has not done "anything special".

"What I like the most is that he tries," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Wednesday's clash with Osasuna. "He tries, whenever he can, and he does it with intensity.

"Regardless of quality, he works a lot. He has to improve without the ball, but he's humble, and he likes to work.

"What I do is work on motivation and less on the offensive aspect of his game, where I leave a lot to creativity. What stands out is his creativity with the ball.

"He is focused as a player. He's young, and at times he loses concentration with the fans – I tell him that he has to focus on the game and not on the surroundings.

"It is not a father-son relationship, I already have two children! It is the relationship you want to have with all the players. I try to keep him motivated, focused, but I don't do anything special."

 

On the other hand, one Madrid wide player who is not thriving currently is Eden Hazard.

The Belgium forward's Madrid career has been devastated by injuries so far and, although he has mostly stayed fit this season, he has a lot of work on his hands to convince Ancelotti.

Hazard has made four LaLiga starts this term, but none of those have come in the past month, and he was an unused substitute for the weekend's Clasico win over Barcelona.

Ancelotti insists the former Chelsea star can get back to his best, however.

Asked if Hazard still had "star status", the coach replied: "He does not have this status because he has had many injuries. Little by little, he will have his best version.

"I am sure that this season we will see his best version and that he will play more than he is doing now. Hazard has it, everything: quality, motivation... He just has to wait. What happens is that sometimes the coach prefers other players.

"He can play 4-3-3 on the left, or 4-4-2 he can play wide, or behind the striker. He is ready to play, but the problem is that there is a coach who is betting on other players."

Gareth Bale will increase the competition for Hazard when he returns, though the Wales winger is still a couple of weeks away from making his comeback, as Ancelotti has earmarked the visit of Rayo Vallecano on November 6.

"Gareth Bale was discharged yesterday and I think that in a week he will be able to train with the team," Ancelotti said. "Maybe he can be involved against Rayo Vallecano."

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has criticised a group of Barcelona supporters who mobbed Ronald Koeman's car after Sunday's Clasico.

Ancelotti claimed his first managerial victory at Camp Nou on Sunday, as goals from David Alaba and Lucas Vazquez secured a 2-1 victory. 

Struggling Barca boss Koeman was then subjected to unsavoury scenes as he left the ground, with the Dutchman's vehicle surrounded by fans as he attempted to depart.

Barca released a statement to condemn those actions and in his news conference on Tuesday, Koeman suggested the incident reflected wider problems in society.

Ancelotti, who Koeman also revealed offered his support, echoed his counterpart's sentiment.

"It is a lack of respect for the person, not for the coach. Koeman is not a coach, he is a person who works as a coach," Ancelotti told the media ahead of Madrid's LaLiga meeting with Osasuna on Wednesday.

"It is not a problem of football, but of society, of rudeness.

"A friend who is also a coach told me that the best life for a coach is when there are no games. It is a beautiful life, we like to train. Criticism is normal, but disrespect is annoying on a personal level.

"When you are a child they teach you, at least to me, if you want to be respected you have to [show] respect."

 

Despite the victory, some sections of Madrid's support were seemingly unhappy with how Los Blancos played at Camp Nou.

Barca shaded the possession (51.6 per cent) and had more shots (12) than Madrid's 10, though the hosts only managed to get two on target - one of those being Sergio Aguero's last-gasp consolation - and were constantly exposed on the counter-attack.

"I understand the criticism because everyone can have an opinion," reflected Ancelotti.

"I said that we had not played perfectly, but that we played a smart game, which was what we had asked for."

Ancelotti has not lost as Madrid coach against Osasuna in all competitions (W3 D1), though Wednesday's match will not be simple, with Jagoba Arrasate's side sitting in sixth, just two points back from Los Blancos.

"Osasuna are a good team that play intense football, that defend well," Ancelotti said. "They are dangerous and their [league position] speaks clearly. It will be a difficult game."

Carlo Ancelotti hailed Real Madrid's togetherness and defensive work after Los Blancos defeated Barcelona 2-1 in Sunday's Clasico to return to the top of LaLiga.

David Alaba opened the scoring on his Clasico debut before Lucas Vazquez tapped in a second in stoppage time as Madrid seemed to be cruising to their fourth consecutive win over Barca in all competitions – their best run since 1965.

Sergio Aguero's pulled one back at Camp Nou but that was not enough as the hosts went winless in a fifth straight LaLiga Clasico, their longest run without a victory against any team in the competition since May 2008.

However, at times Madrid had to soak up significant pressure and Ancelotti was delighted with his side's resolute defending as Ronald Koeman became only the second coach to suffer defeat in his first three Clasico meetings.

"We can compete, the team is very solid," Ancelotti started as he spoke to Movistar Plus post-match.

"We have played against a great one, who has played a great game. We have suffered, but we have known how to suffer together. Not to lose control when you don't have the ball, it is also a virtue.

"We have done very well. On the defensive aspect, I liked it a lot. We would all like to put pressure on the whole field, but it can't be done.

"It was a practical game. This team has this quality to play against and we have to enjoy it. Barca has complicated the game for us. It was not simple.

"I'm happy to win, El Clasico is the most important game. We are happy, but unfortunately, this is only three points."

Thibaut Courtois was required to make just the one save in a quiet game for the Belgium international but sustained a slight knock late on, revealing he was suffering while kicking the ball.

"Here you have to defend," Courtois told Movistar Plus after the match. "It is important to be well organized. Barca will be there until the end, winning here is good "

"We were always good, they didn't have chances until that final goal. We have to be more focused, because with two minutes remaining, with the stadium squeezing everything could happen [after Aguero's goal].

"I felt a pain when kicking, I could continue, I hope it is nothing serious."

Real Madrid returned to the summit of LaLiga as David Alaba's stunner and Lucas Vazquez's late tap in saw Carlo Ancelotti's team beat Barcelona 2-1 in the season's first Clasico.

Sergino Dest squandered a golden chance for Barca at Camp Nou and Madrid made their hosts pay when Clasico debutant Alaba arrowed in a brilliant shot.

Karim Benzema should have added to Madrid's lead in the second half, though Vazquez was on hand to nudge in at the end of a stoppage-time counter.

That proved to be crucial, with Sergio Aguero's maiden Barca goal in the 97th minute not enough to inspire a comeback as Barca failed to win a fifth straight LaLiga Clasico, their longest winless run against any team in the competition since May 2008.

Barca seemed all set to take the lead after breaking clear from a Marc-Andre ter Stegen pass, yet with only Thibaut Courtois to beat, Sergino Dest lashed a close-range effort way over the bar.

Where one defender failed, another one made no such mistake. After getting Madrid on the counter by dispossessing Memphis Depay, Alaba continued his run to latch onto Rodrygo's pass and thump a wonderful finish into the top-right corner.

 

Alaba made a telling contribution at the other end before half-time, blocking Ansu Fati's goal-bound attempt after Gerard Pique had headed just wide.

Benzema snatched at a volley just after the hour, before he failed to turn home Vinicius' cross from close range, albeit the offside flag spared his blushes.

Pique and substitute Aguero both flapped at a cut-back in injury time and Madrid grabbed a second goal from the resulting counter when Vazquez tucked in on the rebound from Marco Asensio's shot.

Aguero, another Clasico debutant, gave Barca a glimmer of hope with a close-range strike, though the final whistle blew a minute later.

Carlo Ancelotti has urged his Real Madrid players to use any pre-Clasico nerves to their advantage when they take on Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday.

Madrid face Barca in a key early season showdown in LaLiga, with the visitors two points better off than their fierce rivals heading into the much-anticipated game.

Los Blancos thrashed Shakhtar Donetsk 5-0 in the Champions League in midweek, but they have taken just one point from the last six on offer in LaLiga.

After suffering a shock 1-0 loss to Espanyol three weeks ago, Madrid risk suffering back-to-back league defeats for the first time since the final two games of the 2018-19 season.

Ancelotti has experience of facing Barcelona as Madrid boss from his first stint in charge and is fully aware of the magnitude of the contest.

"Worrying is a normal emotion. Sometimes even fear – they are positive feelings," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference.

"If you are not afraid, you face the lion thinking that it is a cat. I have a strong team, a team with real quality.

"Fear is not a bad feeling. Fortunately, I am never scared because I think there are worse things in life than to lose a game."

 

Ancelotti was responding to comments made by opposite number Ronald Koeman earlier on Saturday when insisting Barca's players do not fear Madrid.

Madrid have won their last three games against Barcelona in all competitions and are looking to win four in a row for the first time since a run of seven in 1965.

The Catalans may no longer have record all-time goalscorer Lionel Messi in their ranks, but Ancelotti does not doubt the quality of the opposition.

"I don't like evaluating the squads of others," the Italian said. "But they have maintained that identity of playing good football. There's no Messi, but their youngsters are fantastic.

"It is tough to say who arrives in this game in better shape because Barca have played good games lately. In this type of match, there can be no favourite."

This will be the first season since 2004-05 that neither Messi nor Cristiano Ronaldo will make a Clasico appearance, with many suggesting the fixture has lost some of its lustre.

But Ancelotti, who has not won any of his five away managerial games against Barcelona in all competitions, does not see it that way.

"This is a special match for those who experience it," he said. "The feelings are the same as when Cristiano and Messi were involved.

"You don't have to look at the individuals. You have to look at the teams because there will always be Barca-Madrid before those and after those who are here now."

 

Having lost both previous games at Camp Nou as Madrid boss, Ancelotti could become just the second Los Blancos chief to lose his first three away El Clasicos after Leo Beenhakker, who suffered four defeats in a row between 1987 and 1988.

"I have never won at Camp Nou and now is the time to do it," Ancelotti said when that fact was put to him. "That said, it is never easy.

"There are three points on the line and if we want to win the league then we have to target them."

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti thinks Barcelona are rediscovering their identity as they make a comeback from a slow start to the new season.

Barca sit seventh in LaLiga, five places – but just two points – behind Ancelotti's Real Madrid as the pair prepare for a Clasico showdown on Sunday.

Ronald Koeman, who seemed on the brink of an exit earlier in October, has been under pressure after a mixed start to the LaLiga term while losing consecutive Champions League group games for the first time since 2000-01.

However, an improvement in recent weeks has, at least temporarily, kept Joan Laporta from dismissing Koeman, and Ancelotti – who has never won an away game against Barca in five attempts – insists the Blaugrana are on their way back.

"It is a team [Barca] that is coming back in the sense that it has had many problems, but little by little it is finding its identity and is improving," Ancelotti told Madrid's media.

"It is not important how a team gets to this type of game but what kind of game it can get.

"It does not matter how it gets there if not what is done on the field. All these games are like this."

 

Despite Ancelotti's poor away record, Madrid may travel to Camp Nou as favourites, given Barca have failed to win any of their last four games against Los Blancos.

Indeed, Koeman has lost his first two LaLiga Clasico fixtures – only Patrick O'Connell between 1935 and 1940 was defeated in all his opening three matches of the famous fixture as Barca manager.

As Madrid look for their fourth consecutive win against Barca in all competitions, only winning more in a row in 1965 (seven), Ancelotti hinted his defence will be key against Koeman's side, who have scored in 34 of their last 35 top-flight home games.

"For our team the most important thing is always to defend well, both with a low, medium and very high block," he continued.

"Defending well is the key to everything. All the games in which we have finished with a clean sheet we have won.

"The problem for this team is not scoring goals, but not conceding. Therefore, most of the time I try to focus on this."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti says Vinicius Junior is brimming with confidence following his wonderful individual goal in their thrashing of Shakhtar Donetsk.

The 13-time European champions romped to a commanding 5-0 victory in Kiev, their biggest away win in the Champions League since beating Viktoria Plzen by the same scoreline in November 2018.

Vinicius was on target twice, his second goal in the 56th minute the highlight of a dazzling performance.

Just five minutes after doubling his side’s lead, the winger beat several defenders with a jinking run from the left, before firing past Shakhtar keeper Anatolii Trubin.

Ancelotti saluted the Brazil international, who now has seven goals in all competitions this season, his highest tally during a single campaign for Los Blancos.

But the head coach insisted the highest praise should be reserved for the entire team as they bounced back from successive defeats, and warmed up nicely ahead of Sunday's Clasico showdown with Barcelona.

"My team thrives on incredible ambition, which is why we've produced the perfect match," Ancelotti said to reporters post-match.

"After our recent results, it was vital to react and we've done it well. We did what we promised to. 

"Vinicius finished very well indeed, but it was a team effort to produce the goals. 

"He's a young guy, a great player in the making, learning and right now, he's brimming with confidence. But the special praise I'll give is to the entire team." 

As well as his two goals, Vinicius teed up international compatriot Rodrygo's goal as the former recorded a goal and an assist for the first time in 24 Champions League appearances.

The 21-year-old is pleased with the strides he is making, while he also expressed his gratitude for the faith shown in him by Ancelotti.

"I'm still 21, there's lots of time for me to grow into a great player," Vinicius commented after the full-time whistle.

"But I'm working hard so that even if sometimes things don't come off for me, other moments will. I've scored seven times this season – better than the last season – and that's important.

"I love playing in pressure matches, that's natural to me. But the trust and confidence this coach has shown in me is important, too."

The Champions League group stage reaches the halfway point this week and Tuesday provides another set of tasty fixtures.

Liverpool travel to Atletico Madrid seeking revenge two seasons on from their last-16 exit to Diego Simeone's side in the pick of the games.

Real Madrid and Manchester City are each looking to respond to defeats last time out when they take on Shakhtar Donetsk and Club Brugge respectively.

Elsewhere, Paris Saint-Germain host RB Leipzig and two of Europe's great entertainers in Ajax and Borussia Dortmund face off in Amsterdam.

Here, Stats Perform takes a look at the key Opta data ahead of some key contests.

 

Atletico Madrid v Liverpool: Reds face bogey side

Following their last-16 exit to Atletico two seasons ago, Liverpool are winless in four Champions League meetings with the LaLiga champions – only Basel have they faced as many times without winning in Europe's top competition.

The Reds have also lost six of their past seven games on Spanish soil in the tournament since beating Real Madrid in the 2008-09 last 16, though they were victorious at the Wanda Metropolitano against Tottenham in the 2018-19 final.

Mohamed Salah opened the scoring in that meeting with Spurs and he has more recently scored in each of his past five away games for Liverpool in the Champions League – the longest-such streak by a Reds player in the competition.

Shakhtar Donetsk v Real Madrid: Will Ancelotti be Los Blancos' lucky omen?

Shakhtar beat Madrid home and away in the group stage last season and could become just the third side to win three in a row against Los Blancos in the competition after Bayern Munich and Juventus.

While Madrid's recent record against the Ukrainian outfit is poor, head coach Carlo Ancelotti has won all four of his previous Champions League games against Shakhtar – only against Bayern (six) and Liverpool (five) has he won more often.

Prior to their shock defeat at the hands of Sheriff last time out, Madrid beat Inter 1-0 at San Siro in their opening Group D contest. However, not since 2014-15 have they won their opening two Champions League away games.

 

Paris Saint-Germain v RB Leipzig: History not on Germans' side

After netting in PSG's win against Manchester City three weeks ago, Messi is looking to join Neymar (2017), Alex (2012) and George Weah (1994) in scoring in his first two home games for the club in the competition.

PSG have a great record against German opponents, having won seven of their eight meetings with Bundesliga clubs on home soil, though the exception in that run was in April this year when Bayern won 1-0 at the Parc des Princes.

The Ligue 1 side do not tend to slip up at home in the group stage, losing just one of their past 28 such games – against Manchester United in October 2020 – and netting 2.7 goals per game on average.

Club Brugge v Manchester City: Pep seeking response to Paris pain

Ahead of this first ever meeting with City, Brugge are winless in 12 matches against English opponents in all European competitions since beating Chelsea in the Cup Winners' Cup 26 years ago.

The Belgian champions are unbeaten in their past four home group matches in the Champions League, though, picking up eight points across that run – only once have they gone five in a row without defeat (a run of six that ended in October 2019).

But Pep Guardiola will be confident of City getting their campaign back on track following defeat in Paris, the Catalan coach having lost successive away games in the competition once previously when in charge of Bayern in 2014-15 (against Porto and Barcelona).

 

Other fixtures:

Ajax v Borussia Dortmund

2 - Dortmund have won their previous two major European matches in the Netherlands, both in the Champions League. Their last defeat on Dutch soil was in the 2002 UEFA Cup final against Feyenoord.

3 - Ajax are aiming to win their opening three games to a Champions League campaign for the first time since 1995-96 under Louis van Gaal, the season in which they last made it all the way to the final.


Besiktas v Sporting CP

4 - Sporting have failed to win a European match on Turkish soil, drawing three times and losing once, with that loss coming against Istanbul Basaksehir in February 2020 in the Europa League. Besiktas, though, have won just once in 11 home Champions League games, beating RB Leipzig 2-0 in September 2017.

3 - Sporting lost their opening two group matches, against Dortmund and Ajax, and are at risk of losing three in a row for the first time in the current group-stage format.


Porto v Milan

6 - Porto have kept a clean sheet in six of their past seven games in the group stage of the Champions League, though they did concede five times in their last outing in the competition against Liverpool.

7 - Including qualifying matches, seven of Milan's eight away matches in UEFA competitions in Portugal have ended as a draw, with their only win coming against Porto in March 1993 courtesy of a Jean-Pierre Papin goal.


Inter v Sheriff

- Inter have failed to score in their previous three home Champions League games (the last two group games in 2020-21 and against Madrid this term). They have never previously gone four major UEFA European home games without scoring.

- Sheriff are looking to become just the third team this century to win their first three games in the Champions League, after Leicester City in 2016-17 and Malaga in 2012-13.

Carlo Ancelotti claimed nobody is more frustrated with Eden Hazard's injury problems than the Belgium international himself.

Hazard joined Real Madrid from Chelsea in 2019 for a reported €100million (£88.5m), but the former Blues star has endured persistent physical issues since his arrival in the Spanish capital.

He has managed a full 90 minutes on just four occasions in all competitions for Madrid, scoring just five times in 51 matches, prompting supporters and local media to vent their frustrations with the 30-year-old.

Hazard, though, has registered five starts this term – making eight appearances in total for his 382 minutes – but that short-term recovery has stuttered again as Ancelotti confirmed he would be without the attacker for the trip to Shakhtar Donetsk.

Despite the unavailability of the former Lille man, Ancelotti insisted Hazard is the most frustrated by the continuous injury problems after the forward returned from international duty with muscle fatigue.

"Hazard is tired of having these problems, he isn't injured but he has an overload," Ancelotti said at Monday's pre-match news conference.

"Nobody is more frustrated than Hazard. I think he will be available against Barcelona or Osasuna."

Hazard has only recorded one goal and one assist in 799 minutes for Madrid in the Champions League (12 appearances).

At former club Chelsea, he averaged a goal or assist in the competition every 183 minutes, scoring eight goals and setting up a team-mate eight times in his 38 appearances.

Ancelotti – without Hazard for Tuesday's visit to Ukraine – will have to rely on his other stars, with young prospects Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde impressing recently to place pressure on Toni Kroos, Casemiro and Luka Modric.

The former Milan head coach, however, insisted his experienced trio remain an integral part of his plans as Madrid search for domestic and European glory.

"I think they [Kroos, Casemiro and Modric] are players who continue to compete at the top level," Ancelotti continued.

"Then we have a squad with young players like [Antonio] Blanco, Camavinga and Valverde who are pushing them a lot.

"I have to take into account everyone's age and their experience. We have a midfield that can compete against anyone."

Carlo Ancelotti reflected on a 2-1 defeat to Espanyol as Real Madrid's worst performance since he returned to the club.

A miserable week for Los Blancos took another turn for the worse when they missed the chance to restore a three-point lead at the top of LaLiga at RCDE Stadium on Sunday.

Sensationally beaten 2-1 by Moldovan side Sheriff in the Champions League in midweek, Madrid went down by the same scoreline following goals from Raul de Tomas and Aleix Vidal.

Karim Benzema pulled one back, but Ancelotti pulled no punches with his verdict after watching his side slip up before the international break.

The Italian said: "It was our worst game [of the season]. We played badly, there is not much more to say. We have to change our attitude this week.

"The defeat is not an accident because we deserved to lose. We are worried because two defeats in a row at this club is not customary and we must remedy this, correcting the errors."

Ancelotti says Madrid must reflect on their shortcomings during the international break.

He added: "We have started with an idea and the idea has changed with the first goal conceded. We were not able to keep calm and the idea and the team has been poorly positioned with the ball and without it.

"The approach was quite clear, I am not going to explain it now. The team has been very messy, with and without the ball. We have to fix it, I have discussed it with the players and they agree.

"Now comes the break. Sometimes it is better to play again immediately, but you have to use the break to reflect."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti ruled out the possibility of ever taking charge of LaLiga rivals Barcelona.

Ronald Koeman is under pressure at embattled giants Barca and Madrid great Guti said he would be open to coaching at Camp Nou.

Guti emerged from the youth system of boyhood club Madrid in 1995, going on to captain Los Blancos and win five LaLiga titles and three Champions League crowns among other honours before leaving in 2010.

The 44-year-old former Spain international midfielder returned to coach Madrid's youth team between 2013 and 2018.

But Ancelotti – in his second spell in the Spanish capital – has no plans to coach Barca, despite Guti's revelation.

"With all due respect to a great club like Barcelona, I can't," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of league-leading Madrid's trip to Espanyol on Sunday.

"I can't go against my history; my history says that I have coached Real Madrid, I am the Real Madrid coach.

"I can't go against this. With all due respect for a great club."

Madrid have won 20 of their last 23 games against Espanyol in LaLiga (D2 L1), scoring 61 goals during this time (2.6 per match) and keeping a clean sheet in 17 of them (eight goals conceded overall).

Los Blancos have beaten Espanyol in nine of their 11 visits to the RCDE Stadium in LaLiga (D1 L1) – more than any other visiting side at the ground in the competition.

Madrid have not lost any of their last 18 away matches in LaLiga (W12 D6), and should they avoid defeat to Espanyol, the club will record their longest unbeaten run away from home in the competition's history (19).

Ancelotti has not lost any of his last 17 matches in LaLiga (W14 D3), and could equal his best run as Madrid coach in the competition (18 between October 2013 and March 2014 - W15 D3).

Carlo Ancelotti said he hoped Kylian Mbappe "enjoys himself" at Real Madrid after Karim Benzema predicted the Paris Saint-Germain star would move to the Santiago Bernabeu.

In an interview with L'Equipe, Benzema claimed it was a matter of time until his international team-mate signs for Los Blancos.

Madrid reportedly saw three bids rejected by PSG for the France star during the transfer window, the last one said to be worth €200million.

Yet with Mbappe's contract expiring at the end of the season and no sign of an extension, the 22-year-old will be free to speak with foreign clubs over a possible free transfer from January onwards.

When asked about Benzema's comments ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Espanyol, Ancelotti replied: "I hope Mbappe enjoys himself because Madrid are the biggest club in the world!"

Madrid's trip to Barcelona comes in the week when they were stunned by Champions League debutants Sheriff 2-1 at home.

Having won five matches in a row, Madrid are now without a victory in their previous two, having been held 0-0 at home by Villarreal in their most recent league match.

Ancelotti has been losing sleep over those recent results but is not concerned by recent criticism of his side or his methods.

 

"The game against Sheriff hurt our pride. We'll react and give everything tomorrow, as we did against Sheriff," Ancelotti said.

"It's true we committed small mistakes, weren't precise enough in finishing, in passing, in their few chances.

"It affected me physically because I don't sleep, and I think about what happened. When you don't win, you don't sleep.

"I accept it [criticism], whether it's fair or unfair, you have to accept it. It's normal. I have a fantastic position, and I'm lucky to be here, and you have to accept that they can criticise you.

"We need to have more balance and really assess what's happening to us. We have struggled for goals in our last two games and we need to address that in our next game. I don't think that it’s a case of this being a tough time, but it is certainly tougher than it was before, but we have to solve it by playing with balance and energy."

This weekend also sees a clash between champions Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, a game Ancelotti plans to watch as he expects both to be their main title rivals this term.

"We're going to fight with those two until the end. Atleti are maybe better coming into it," he said.

"I'm going to watch because they're two big teams, but if we do what we need to do, we're going to fight for titles."

Toni Kroos is hopeful Real Madrid will finally land Kylian Mbappe next year after a failed attempt to sign the Paris Saint-Germain in the most recent transfer window.

Madrid are reported to have had three bids turned down for the France international in July and August, the last one said to be worth up to €200million.

However, Mbappe is due to become a free agent at the end of the season and can therefore secure a pre-contract agreement with Madrid – or any other foreign club – from the start of January.

Kroos has previously talked up the prospect of his side bringing in Mbappe and remains eager to link up with the 22-year-old in 2022.

"In the summer, I already said that I would like a player like him to come, but if he doesn't, we have a good team," he told Goal.

"Let's see what happens in the future. It is difficult for me to say, because I am not the one who decides. 

"His quality has not changed – he is a good player and what we know is that Madrid wanted to sign him but in the end they didn't succeed. Everything continues, also without Mbappe here.

"I think we are doing well and for the future my opinion has not changed: the best players have to be at Madrid, and he is sure to be one of them."

Mbappe has four goals and five assists in 10 games this term – only international team-mates Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba (both seven) have set up more goals in all competitions among players from Europe's top five leagues.

The PSG star has gone five matches without finding the net himself, however, after failing to add a goal to his assist for Lionel Messi in Tuesday's 2-0 Champions League win over Manchester City.

While PSG were claiming a deserved victory over fellow heavyweights City, Madrid slumped to one of the biggest shocks in the competition's history as they fell 2-1 to Sheriff.

That was just Los Blancos' second defeat in 32 group-stage games at the Santiago Bernabeu, having previously lost to CSKA Moscow in December 2018.

Madrid have otherwise made a positive start to Carlo Ancelotti's second spell in charge, and Kroos, who made his first appearance of the season as a second-half substitute against Sheriff, believes the Italian's methods have changed over time, having been signed during his previous stint.

"Yes, there is a difference, but our relationship still remains very good," he said. 

"I had a good relationship with him in 2014. I haven't played many games so far [this season], so I can't say exactly what has changed because I haven't had many talks with him."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti bemoaned one of the biggest upsets in Champions League history, the Italian believing his side did not deserve to lose to giant-slaying debutants Sheriff.

Sheriff caused a boilover at the Santiago Bernabeu, where the Champions League debutants and Moldovan visitors won 2-1 on Tuesday.

Jasurbek Yakhshiboev opened the scoring with a powerful header in the first half, before Karim Benzema's emphatic penalty levelled the scores for Madrid.

But Sebastien Thill rifled home a stunning effort from the edge of the box in the 89th minute to hand the Moldovan outfit a dramatic win in Madrid.

Los Blancos had 31 shots, hitting the target with 11, and recorded over 75 per cent possession, while Sheriff took just four shots, but came away with all three points in the Spanish capital.

The result leaves Madrid second in Group D, three points behind Sheriff, who have won their first two games in the competition.

"More than worried, we're sad," Ancelotti said after the game. "We played with intensity and were looking good. We lost because of small details, even though the side played well. We could've been better when it came to the final third but it's tough to explain.

"It's small details that cost us this game. It's a lesson for us in the future as it's a defeat we didn't deserve. We had chances, we were creating out wide and [Luka] Jovic came on and had a couple of opportunities. I think that in the end, everything went well for them and bad for us.

"We've missed out on three points and the group is wide open. We need to win our next game."

Madrid were beaten for just the second time in their last 32 group-stage games in the Champions League when playing at the Santiago Bernabeu (W25 D5) – losing against CSKA Moscow in December 2018 and Sheriff on Tuesday.

Los Blancos star Casemiro lamented the team's defensive lapses and profligacy in front of goal on a humbling night for the LaLiga leaders.

"That's football for you," Casemiro said after the full-time whistle. "One team has more than 20 shots on goal and plays well and the other team that comes here to defend and had two shots go and score twice.

"That's how things go in football and you've got to be more focused defensively. We fully dominated the game and had the chances to have made it 1-0, then 1-1 and they’ve ended up scoring a screamer.

"You've got to win in football, but this year we've already produced some poor performances and won, but that wasn't the case tonight. If you're not clinical, you end up paying the price at the back."

Madrid face Shakhtar Donetsk away from home on October 19 in their next Champions League outing, where they will seek to right the wrongs of their defeat to Sheriff.

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid's history in the Champions League gives them a slight advantage over their biggest rivals.

The Italian was in charge in 2014 when Madrid at last won the competition for the 10th time, beating Atletico Madrid in the final in Lisbon.

Los Blancos then achieved an historic three titles in a row under Zinedine Zidane from 2016 to 2018, a feat unseen in the modern format and only surpassed by Madrid themselves in the days of the European Cup, when they won five in a row from 1956 to 1960.

Madrid started their 2021-22 campaign with a 1-0 victory at Inter and are expected to follow up with three more points on Tuesday when they host competition debutants Sheriff.

Ancelotti admits his side's past successes help a little when it comes to their chances this season, as he aims to replicate Zidane's remarkable achievements.

"For us to represent this club is something special, it's the most complicated, most difficult competition," he said on Monday. "We are more used to winning it than others. We have a little advantage.

"It's difficult [to compare this team with Zidane's] because the players changed a little, the squad has changed, plus I don't like to compare this team with Zizou's team.

"Zizou did things as well as he could have done. He won the Champions League three times in a row. Hopefully, I can win another one."

Madrid played their home games at the Castilla's Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano last season while renovation work was being completed at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It means Sheriff, the 108th different side they have faced in the competition, will be the first to visit the famous ground in the Champions League since Manchester City in the last-16 first leg in 2019-20.

"It's a Champions League game. You have to prepare well for all Champions League games. We're really excited to return to the Bernabeu because we have really good memories," said Ancelotti.

"Sheriff are doing well. We have to be careful because it's a team not much is known about, but they're organised, fast going forward... we have to hold maximum concentration. We need three points."

Defender Nacho Fernandez claims the squad are not interested in whether others consider them among the favourites for this year's trophy, insisting they are confident they can challenge in the latter stages.

"The question of being favourites is not one that the rest of the squad and I are really bothered about," he said. "We face the same level of pressure regardless of whether we're favourites or not.

"We've got a great squad, are feeling really confident and are raring to having a good year in the Champions League. Nobody rules Real Madrid out from being involved right until the end."

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