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."

Thibaut Courtois kept his 100th clean sheet in LaLiga but the Real Madrid goalkeeper was left frustrated after a "bitter" goalless draw with Villarreal.

Belgium international Courtois became one of only five goalkeepers to achieve a hundred or more shut outs in LaLiga in the 21st century.

Only Atletico Madrid goalkeeper Jan Oblak (182) has reached the milestone in fewer games than Courtois (217).

However, the 29-year-old was more concerned with dropped points as Madrid missed the chance to increase their lead at the top of LaLiga to five points after city rivals Atletico lost earlier in the day to Alaves.

"A clean sheet is not bad after conceding in the last games," he told Movistar.

"It is a bit of a bitter draw because it is at home and if a direct rival loses you want to win the three points. The point is not enough for us. 

"We have prepared the game to try to put pressure on them, but in the first half they did very well. It was difficult to take the ball from them. 

"We have missed too many passes. Sometimes it happens."

Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti felt his tactics were spot on even though his side managed just two shots on target.

Both of them came in the second half after Madrid failed to register an attempt on goal in the opening 45 minutes for the first time under Ancelotti.

"I don't think the approach was wrong but correct," Ancelotti said in a media conference.

"It was difficult to play between the lines because they defended very well. In the first half, we had difficulties because we did not have Etienne Capoue under control. 

"In the second half we had more control, but we did not find a good opportunity. We put in more intensity, but it was very difficult to pressure them because they handled the ball well."

The match was the 800th that Ancelotti had presided over as a coach in Europe's top five leagues and notched up his 182th draw to go with 475 wins and 143 defeats.

Madrid are three points clear of second-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand.

"We finished with a clean sheet and that is positive after the last matches," added the Italian.

"Against Villarreal, if it's not your best night it's difficult to win. We are still up there in the league and that is what matters."

Real Madrid missed the chance to increase their lead at the top of LaLiga after they were held to a goalless draw by Villarreal on Saturday.

Carlo Ancelotti's side struggled to break down a disciplined Villarreal side at the Santiago Bernabeu in what was the Italian's 800th game as a coach in Europe's top five leagues.

Arnaut Danjuma went close for the Yellow Submarine in the first half as Madrid failed to register a shot on target before half-time for the first time in a game under Ancelotti.

Madrid's best chance fell to Isco late on but his header was blocked to leave Ancelotti's side three points above second-placed Sevilla, who have a game in hand.

Carlo Ancelotti is taking no enjoyment from bitter rivals Barcelona's ongoing struggles as he backed Real Madrid to continue improving.

Barca have managed just two wins from their opening five LaLiga games of the season and were beaten 3-0 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League last week.

The pressure is mounting on head coach Ronald Koeman following Thursday's stalemate with Cadiz, a result that leaves the Catalan giants down in seventh place.

LaLiga leaders Madrid are already seven points better off than Barca, albeit having played a game more, but Ancelotti is only concerned about his own side's performances.

"I'm not happy if a team has a bad time," he said at Friday's news conference previewing Madrid's home match with Villarreal on Saturday. 

"I focus only on my team. If things don't go well for another team, be it Barca or another, It doesn't make me happy."

 

Madrid's thumping 6-1 win over Real Mallorca on Wednesday moved them two points clear of reigning champions Atletico Madrid at the summit ahead of the visit of Villarreal.

Los Blancos are now unbeaten in 24 league games, which is their longest such run since going 28 without defeat between March 2016 and January 2017.

Marco Asensio scored a hat-trick against his former side in that most recent match, while Karim Benzema claimed a double and provided two assists.

Benzema has now been directly involved in 15 LaLiga goals this season, surpassing former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (14) for the most of any player in the Spanish top flight this century after six games.

The France international turns 34 in December, but Ancelotti feels the prolific striker is only getting better with age.

Asked if Benzema is a contender for the Ballon d'Or award, Ancelotti said: "Because of what he's doing and has done, he has to be on the shortlist.

"But Karim still has time to win it. This will not be his last season. He's like wine – it gets better with time."

Thanks to the form of Benzema, Madrid have scored 21 goals after six LaLiga matches – their best tally at this stage since 1987-88 when registering 26 goals.

The capital club have not been as strong defensively, though, with only seven teams in the division having conceded more goals than the eight Madrid have let in.

With that in mind, Ancelotti believes there is still more to come from his side.

"The players are doing well. I have to be honest, we have focused a lot on the defensive side of our game because that needed the most improvement," he said.

"It's difficult to have a high line if there is no pressure on the ball. If there is no pressure we defend with a low block. 

"We'd like to have a line in the centre of the pitch, but it's not always possible.

"I was satisfied with the Mallorca game compared to our previous match against Valencia, but you quickly have to focus on what can be improved."

Ancelotti also revealed Eden Hazard has "trained well" this week but could not guarantee the forward, who was an unused substitute against Mallorca, would feature this weekend.

Madrid have lost just one of their 21 home LaLiga matches against Villarreal, winning 15 of those and drawing the other five.

Villarreal have therefore lost 71.4 per cent of their away matches against Los Blancos, which is their highest percentage against any opponent with at least two games played on the road.

Marco Asensio was considering leaving Real Madrid on loan before Carlo Ancelotti told the midfielder to stay with the LaLiga leaders.

The Spain international was concerned that his first-team opportunities would be limited this season due to the options at Ancelotti's disposal in his second spell as Madrid boss.

Liverpool were among the clubs linked with Asensio, but the 25-year-old was still with Los Blancos when the transfer window closed at the end of last month.

Asensio, who missed most of the 2019-20 due to a knee injury, marked his first start of the season with a hat-trick in a 6-1 LaLiga hammering of his former club Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Horacio Gaggioli, Asensio's agent, has revealed it could have been a very different story.

"We had been considering a loan for him to get back in form as soon as possible, either in Spain or abroad," he told Cadena SER's El Larguero show.

"There were no problems in that sense. But four days ago, Carletto (Ancelotti) told him to stay.

"We knew the quality Real Madrid had in midfield, probably the best in the world. So where would he play? It's not that we had no faith in him, because he can also play on the wing.

"But we knew that the year after the injury was going to be difficult and Real Madrid can't wait for anybody. They have to win every week and recovering from an injury isn't easy at Real Madrid."

Gaggioli says Asensio had no desire to leave the Spanish capital, adding: "We cannot be more grateful to Real Madrid."

With his treble against Mallorca, Asensio became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

He has two years to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu and Ancelotti insists the versatile midfielder has a big role to play.

"Marco was important to us even before the Mallorca game," Ancelotti said on Friday. "He has shown his quality for us. He can play in different positions and is a very important player in the squad."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti hailed Marco Asensio following his hat-trick performance in the 6-1 LaLiga rout of Real Mallorca.

Asensio scored three goals in his first start of the season against former club Mallorca as Madrid returned to the league summit at the Santiago Bernabeau on Wednesday.

After Karim Benzema opened the scoring in the third minute, Asensio took centre stage – the Spaniard scored on either side of Lee Kang-in's goal to give Madrid a 3-1 half-time lead.

Asensio completed his treble 10 minutes into the second half as he became the sixth Spanish player to score a hat-trick for Madrid in LaLiga this century and the first since Alvaro Morata in April 2017. 

Benzema and Isco added gloss to the scoreline, though Ancelotti heaped praise on Asensio post-match.

"I invest my experience in the team and look to give them my all, both in terms of experience and confidence," Ancelotti told reporters, with Madrid now boasting 16 points from their opening six league matches – their best start to a season at this stage since 2013-14, when the Italian boss was last in charge.

"I'm lucky to coach this brave team with a lot of quality and players who learn quickly. Asensio played very well. We knew that he can do a lot of damage and they had a lot of quality between the lines, he's a very good shot taker and he combines very well.

"Asensio has performed very well and during next week he can hopefully score three goals as well. I think this is the position.

"It can be sometimes that if we push with the full-back, defending, he can play more on the outside, but with the ball it's always the same position because he likes it. When he comes inside he has the ball on the left and he is very dangerous there."

Benzema also impressed in the Spanish capital – the in-form France international has been directly involved in 15 goals in LaLiga this season (eight goals and seven assists).

It is the best start in goal involvement of any player after the first six league games of the campaign in the 21st century.

"Karim is doing well," Ancelotti said. "He's scored eight goals and can make you forget that he is playing very well with the team, he gets behind, he contributes to the other players.

"He's a striker who doesn't just score goals. He is complete in every way.

"The day when he needs a rest weell play [Luka] Jovic, who has been doing really well. Jovic is up against really tough competition, but when he's played he's done well.

"He had two chances today and he also played extremely well against Valencia. He'll play when Benzema isn't available."

Carlo Ancelotti sympathised with Ronald Koeman's poor start at Barcelona as Real Madrid prepare for the visit of Real Mallorca on Wednesday.

Madrid left it late against Valencia last time out, scoring twice in three minutes to win 2-1 and extend their unbeaten run to 23 LaLiga games.

Meanwhile, Barcelona have only won twice in the Spanish top flight so far, most recently being held to a 1-1 draw by strugglers Granada on Monday.

Reports from Spain on Tuesday suggest that Barca are considering sacking Koeman and replacing him with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez.

However, Ancelotti warned that teams will always go through difficult periods, with his side included in the anecdote despite their impressive 13-point haul from five games this term.

"You always have problems, now everything goes well for us, but surely problems will come to us," Ancelotti responded when asked about Koeman's difficulties.

"And a coach should focus on solving problems when they come.

"If we are able to maintain this attitude and with the quality that the team has, we will move forward. The spirit is the most important lately because we have always fought to the end.

"Winning comes first but if you play well you have a better chance of winning. But what does it mean to play well? For me the key is balance, playing well with or without the ball."

Los Blancos could record their best start to a league campaign since 2013-14 – also under Ancelotti – if they beat Mallorca, who have lost more top-flight games against Madrid than any other opponent (37).

But Ancelotti refused to be drawn on questions of how his side compares to his previous team from his first tenure in Spain's capital.

"I must take into account the characteristics of these players, different from those of 2014, learn and try to put them in a good position on the field," he continued.

"That's the job. At the club they know me well and we're having a good time now I think.

"It is very good, it is a honeymoon for me. We will live good times and bad times but I will never lose the respect that I have for this club.

"And the same way backwards. Difficult times will come but we will have a good time, just as it happened in my first stage here."

Carlo Ancelotti deflected the credit for Vinicius Jr's upturn in form as Real Madrid prepare to face Valencia on Sunday.

Madrid boast the longest unbeaten streak in LaLiga, having gone 22 games without defeat but they have won only one of their last nine visits to Valencian sides in the top flight.

Vinicius has been an integral part of their positive start to this term, winning three and drawing one, as he has scored four times in as many appearances.

And while Ancelotti has been pleased with the Brazil forward's form, he has not been surprised by his impressive performances so far.

"At the game level I see a player with impressive one-on-one ability," Ancelotti told Saturday's news conference.

"Today's Vinicius is the same that I saw when he was not here, what happens is that this season he started scoring and that has given him confidence.

"I am not a magician, just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities." 

 Asked whether Vinicius can continue his form, the Madrid head coach responded: "It depends on the personality, the character, the charisma, the quality that one has. 

"Vinicius has taken the team on our backs on several occasions and at this moment is what he has to do, when he is more veteran he will be able to put his character and experience."

And Ancelotti believes the future of Madrid is in safe hands with another Brazil youngster Rodyrgo coming through the ranks.

The 20-year-old has made four appearances this term, though he has not managed any goal involvements in those outings.

"Rodrygo is very fast, very complete and is very young," Ancelotti continued. "He is the present and the future of Real Madrid."

Carlo Ancelotti is hoping to make history by landing a fourth Champions League title this season but is unsure where his Real Madrid rank among the favourites to win the competition.

The experienced Italian coach is level with Liverpool great Bob Paisley and former Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane with three triumphs in the competition previously known as the European Cup.

Ancelotti famously ended Madrid's 12-year wait for 'La Decima' – a 10th European crown – when beating Atletico Madrid 4-1 in the 2013-14 final in Lisbon.

Los Blancos went on to win the competition in three successive seasons under Zidane, during which time Ancelotti was boss of Bayern Munich and Napoli, before a spell with Everton.

Back at the Santiago Bernabeu since June, Ancelotti is out to become the most successful ever coach in the continental competition, having also twice gone all the way with Milan.

"It's a great motivation," he said at a news conference previewing Wednesday's opening group game against Inter.

"But the biggest motivation of all is to come back and win with Real Madrid. The joy is to go to Valdebebas every day to coach the team.

"For me this competition is special. I also won it as a player and I have excellent memories, especially winning Madrid's 10th. It is a fresh and special memory."

Ancelotti's 76 per cent win rate across his 25 Champions League games with Madrid is the best of any coach at a single club to have managed at least 20 matches.

He will be looking to build on that return on Wednesday when Madrid travel to San Siro for their much-anticipated Group D opener with Italian champions Inter.

Los Blancos will fancy their chances of advancing from a group that also contains Shakhtar Donetsk and debutants Sheriff Tiraspol, but trickier tests would then lie in wait.

Paris Saint-Germain are the trophy favourites of many after adding Lionel Messi to their ranks, while Bayern Munich and England's four-strong contingent are also much-fancied.

"It's hard to say whether we can be considered among the favourites," Ancelotti said when asked where his side currently rank among Europe's elite clubs.

"What I can say is that Madrid will be competitive all the way. To say whether we're favourites is too difficult. We'll just try to fight for everything."

Madrid have won only one of their previous eight away games against Inter in European competition, though that victory came in last season's group stage.

Both teams have a new head coach in the dugout 10 months on from that previous encounter, with Simone Inzaghi replacing Antonio Conte at Inter ahead of this season.

Inter dropped their first points of the season on Sunday with a 2-2 draw against Sampdoria, while Madrid saw off Celta Vigo 5-2 to make it three wins from four this term.

"Inter are doing well so far," Ancelotti said. "We did well in our last game against Celta, but tomorrow will be another story. It's a competition that gives Madrid great sensations.

"We know it will be complicated. Inter have a new coach but the structure is the same. We'll try to control the game and play to our best.

"They have lost important players but have also signed some important players. They are a team that play good football. It will be an open and competitive match."

Ancelotti also confirmed that full-back Marcelo will play no part against Inter because of an injury, while Gareth Bale also remains absent.

Karim Benzema applauded the performance of Vinicius Junior in Real Madrid's 5-2 win over Celta Vigo, labelling the Brazilian a "phenomenon".

Benzema would have been most people's star of the show, the Frenchman scoring a hat-trick and getting an assist.

But Vinicius was Madrid's other key man, scoring the goal that Benzema set up and also winning the penalty that allowed the France international to score his first LaLiga treble since April 2019.

Vinicius frequently ran at the Celta defence and often caused havoc when doing so, tallying 11 dribble attempts – a figure only he (14 vs Real Betis) and Nabil Fekir (14 vs Cadiz) have bettered in a single LaLiga game this term – and completing five of them.

His goal took Vinicius to four for the season, which is already a personal best for an individual campaign at Madrid, and second only to Benzema (five) in 2021-22.

After regularly being seen as a source of frustration, even for his team-mates, the 21-year-old appears to be coming of age and Benzema is relishing his improvement.

"Vinicius is a phenomenon," Benzema told Movistar. "I really like playing with him.

 

"He is young and I talk to him a lot, giving him advice, because I know what he's going through.

"But he helps us a lot. He's a great player and he's showed that he can play for Real Madrid."

Carlo Ancelotti echoed that sentiment but was also eager to share the praise out, with the Italian clearly thrilled by the exhibition produced by his forwards.

"Vinicius is in a spectacular moment and I am happy for him. He is playing with a lot of quality and is at a very high level," Ancelotti said.

"But not only Vinicius. Benzema was also fantastic, [Luka] Modric, Miguel Gutierrez. Everyone in attack was good."

Though Ancelotti did suggest he was a little perturbed by Madrid's sloppiness at the back, with a mix-up between Nacho Fernandez and Casemiro leading to Celta's opener, before the visitors carved them open to then go 2-1 later in the first half.

"I have a good taste in my mouth," he added. "The fans helped us a lot. When we were down on the scoreboard, they pushed us and we felt their encouragement.

"It was a great game, with mistakes and with good things. It had everything.

"Defensively we gave away two goals because we lacked balance. The defensive organisation has to improve. With the ball we are fine but without it we are not as good and that can harm us."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti dismissed speculation regarding Paris Saint-Germain star and Los Blancos transfer target Kylian Mbappe.

Madrid are reportedly in negotiations with PSG in a bid to prise Mbappe from Paris amid talk of a €170million offer plus €10million in add-ons for the France international.

Mbappe has one year remaining on his contract but Madrid are determined to sign the 22-year-old – who has scored 133 goals in 174 games for PSG – at a rate of one goal every 102.46 minutes – before the end of the transfer window.

Ancelotti was asked about Mbappe after Madrid defeated Real Betis 1-0 on Saturday, however he was unwilling to shed light on the possibility of the Frenchman moving to the Santiago Bernabeu.

"We should stick to talking about the game because the rest is a matter for the club, who are working on it," Ancelotti told reporters.

"I don't know the details at this stage."

Dani Carvajal's sublime second-half volley secured a hard-earned win for Madrid at Betis.

Carvajal had not scored for Los Blancos since November 2019, but the fit-again full-back marked his return to the side with a second-half finish after being teed up by Karim Benzema.

Benzema has been involved in five goals in his opening three games of a LaLiga season (two goals and three assists) for the first time in his Madrid career.

"The first 45 minutes was much more level and much more so than the second half," Ancelotti said when asked about Benzema.

"We tried to win the ball high up the pitch as quickly as possible and that's where [Karim] Benzema struggled a bit because he had to sit a bit deeper to try and win the ball back when we weren't in possession.

"But I think Karim made the difference today again because he had a very good cross into the box for Carvajal, and we won the game."

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti said the potential signing of Paris Saint-Germain forward Kylian Mbappe is "a matter for the club".

According to widespread reports, Madrid have offered €170million plus €10million in add-ons to bring the 22-year-old to the Bernabeu.

Mbappe has one year remaining on his contract with PSG, for whom he has scored 133 times in 174 games – at a rate of one goal every 102.46 minutes.

But Ancelotti insisted he was not the right person to speak about a potential deal when asked about it ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Real Betis.

"It's a matter for the club, I understand that it is of interest, but I can't say more," he said. "If I say that Mbappe is a great player, I tell the truth. I try to get the best quality in my squad.

"My squad is fantastic, I'm focused on that. It can compete against everyone in the world. 

"I'm happy with the squad but if it improves, then better for everyone."

 

While Mbappe could arrive, Madrid's last big-money signing – Eden Hazard – has been linked with a move away.

A seemingly constant battle with injuries has prevented the Belgium forward from truly kicking on at Madrid since his move from Chelsea in 2019.

In the wake of Cristiano Ronaldo leaving Juventus, with a return to Manchester United having been agreed, Hazard has been linked with a switch to the Bianconeri. 

However, Hazard has started each of Los Blancos' opening two matches of the new LaLiga season and Ancelotti emphasised the 30-year-old's importance. 

"Hazard is a very important player, everyone knows that," Ancelotti added. "He's played the first two games coming back from injury, he's doing well.

"He's got good motivation and he's a very, very important player for us."

Real Madrid midfielder Federico Valverde has agreed a contract extension that will keep him at the Santiago Bernabeu until June 2027.

The 23-year-old Uruguay international's original agreement ran until 2025 but he signed a deal for a further two years, and it reportedly includes a €1billion release clause.

A statement on Madrid's website on Tuesday said: "Federico Valverde signed a contract renewal at Real Madrid. The Uruguayan midfielder remains linked to our club until June 30, 2027."

Valverde joined Madrid from Uruguayan club Penarol in July 2016, initially playing for Real Madrid Castilla, the club's reserve team.

He joined Deportivo La Coruna on loan for the 2017-18 season before establishing himself in the Madrid first-team setup under Santi Solari.

Valverde won LaLiga in 2019-20 under Zinedine Zidane, making 21 starts. Last season he featured 24 times for Madrid in the league and scored three goals.

The midfielder becomes the latest player to agree new terms at Madrid since Carlo Ancelotti took charge of Los Blancos in June.

Luka Modric, Nacho Fernandez, Karim Benzema, Dani Carvajal and Thibaut Courtois have all recently signed new deals.

 

 

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti was livid with his side after they "gave away two points" in Sunday's 3-3 LaLiga draw with Levante.

Madrid seemed in control leading 1-0 at the break following Gareth Bale's first LaLiga goal since 2019 but conceded two goals within 12 minutes of the restart to trail 2-1.

Vinicius Junior pulled a goal back in the 73rd minute before Rober restored Levante's lead with the Brazilian finding a leveler with five minutes to go.

"It was crazy, after controlling the first half well," Ancelotti told Marca. "We have given away two points after a very good first half.

"It is difficult to explain, we had to pay attention to any detail. We leave with a bad taste in our mouths. We have to be more attentive."

Los Blancos had started their LaLiga campaign with a strong 4-1 win away to Alaves but the Italian bemoaned his side's second-half attitude against Levante.

"The first half was very good," Ancelotti said. "In the second we did not enter with a good attitude. It was not a good response."

He added: "The third [goal] is bad luck. In the first [goal] we adjust the line badly and in the second [goal] we are three against two, and that cannot be."

Despite his frustrations, Ancelotti was delighted with the impact of 21-year-old Brazilian winger Vinicius Junior as a 59th-minute substitute and hoped he can build on his promise.

The Flamengo junior only scored three league goals from 35 appearances last term but has already equaled that output in two LaLiga games this season.

"He has a lot of quality," Ancelotti said. "He must score, but I don't know if he will be a great scorer.

"With that quality he must score many goals. It will be important for us. Sometimes it is more important to finish the games than to start them.

"It is not something that gives much importance, whether you are the owner or not."

Carlo Ancelotti says neither he nor his Real Madrid "team full of stars" are overly concerned by speculation surrounding mooted target Kylian Mbappe.

The transfer window closes at the end of August and Madrid have so far signed only David Alaba, who was a free agent after leaving Bayern Munich.

Los Blancos are enduring financial difficulties amid the coronavirus pandemic, estimating it had cost them "close to €300million", meaning they will "continue in the effort so far to contain spending".

These statements have not prevented continued links to Paris Saint-Germain forward Mbappe, however.

The World Cup winner, now a team-mate of Lionel Messi as well as Neymar, is out of contract next year and is widely considered a top target for Madrid.

But Madrid coach Ancelotti was unmoved on Saturday, speaking ahead of the trip to Levante, by the suggestion Mbappe could arrive in the coming days.

"The atmosphere in the dressing room is very good because the players are focused on the work they are doing and they are not talking about the market," he said.

"You only talk about the matches and I don't know if everyone then thinks about this.

"I talk to the club every day and the idea that the club have about the future is the same as I have. But I don't think it's fair to talk about it here."

Ancelotti, who has won all four of his LaLiga games against Levante, added: "I don't care what's going to happen in the next few days.

"I have a very good squad that I really want to train with and I'm only focused on the team I have."

Former Madrid favourite Cristiano Ronaldo has also been linked with a return, yet he looks set to stay at Juventus and the idea was dismissed by Ancelotti.

"The issue is settled," he said. "After clearing up the rumours, I just want to say what I said before: the idea of the club is the same as mine.

"After that, everyone knows my affection for Cristiano."

Without bringing in Mbappe or Ronaldo, Madrid are a side seemingly lacking an obvious superstar – but Ancelotti disagrees.

"This squad as it stands can compete with everyone," he said. "We have a lot of top players.

"Courtois, Carvajal, Benzema, Bale, Hazard... I'm going to forget someone. This team is full of stars."

Karim Benzema has certainly picked up the slack since Ronaldo's departure in 2018, with no Madrid player scoring as many goals (89), providing as many assists (30) or playing as many games (148) as the France forward in all competitions in that time.

Benzema this week signed a contract extension to keep him at Madrid until the end of the 2022-23 season.

"Karim is a fundamental part of this team," Ancelotti said. "I'm not going to find out myself. I see him with more personality and more mature.

"It's a pleasure to coach him and watch him play. He has renewed and I am very happy and I think he is very much looking forward to continuing at Real Madrid."

Benzema scored twice in the opening fixture against Alaves and will be looking to net three times across the first two games of a league season for the first time.

That would go a long way to helping Madrid extend their unbeaten run in the competition to 20 matches, the longest current streak.

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