Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has tested positive for COVID-19.

The 62-year-old's diagnosis was confirmed by the club on Wednesday and he will now miss Los Blancos' LaLiga clash at Celta Vigo on Saturday.

Ancelotti could also be absent from the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final with former club Chelsea at Stamford Bridge next week.

The Italian coach's son and assistant, Davide, is expected to take charge of the team in his father's absence.

A statement on the club's website simply read: "Real Madrid confirm that our coach Carlo Ancelotti has tested positive for COVID-19."

Madrid will be looking to bounce back at the weekend having been humbled 4-0 at the Santiago Bernabeu by rivals Barcelona in their last outing before the international break.

Despite that setback, they remain clear at the top of LaLiga, nine points ahead of second-placed Sevilla.

Carlo Ancelotti apologised for Real Madrid's shocking 4-0 capitulation to Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabeu, admitting: "It's all gone wrong."

Madrid, who still hold a nine-point lead over second-placed Sevilla in LaLiga, were mauled by a resurgent Barcelona as Xavi's first taste of this LaLiga clash as a coach ended in glorious triumph for the visitors.

Barcelona are nowhere near being in the hunt for the league title this season, but this was a fifth consecutive win in the competition, and in four of those games they have hit four goals. They are now third and pushing to finish second.

Since his November appointment, Xavi's Barcelona have taken 37 points from 16 games in LaLiga, while Madrid have 39 from 17 outings.

These great rivals are going toe to toe again in the second half of the season, and it is little wonder Madrid want to sign Kylian Mbappe to strengthen their ranks for next term, given momentum is suddenly all with Barcelona.

Ancelotti nudged Luka Modric into more of an attacking role, the 36-year-old midfielder deployed as a false nine in the absence of a genuine number nine in Karim Benzema, who is injured and was sorely missed.

The head coach said that was intended as a means of taking control of the ball and looking to press high, with Modric primed to bring others into the game.

"And it hasn't worked out," Ancelotti said. "When they advanced, we lost control. They hurt us. It was not a good night, we are sorry for the fans, but we have to look forward. We have an advantage, we have to rest and come back.

"I tried to push up and it hasn't come off, my fault. It's hard because it's a Clasico, we're very sorry, it's a blow, we've lost a battle, but we have an advantage, we have to be calm, calm and recover. We don't have to make a drama out of this match. We're sorry. It's all gone wrong, we have to forget it and look forward."

 

With four defeats in six editions of El Clasico as a coach, Ancelotti has found it difficult to manage this fixture.

"I've failed in this game, but I'm not making a big deal out of it," he said.

This is Ancelotti's second stint in charge of Los Blancos, after he was lured away from Everton ahead of this season. His Madrid side won 2-1 at Camp Nou in October, prior to Xavi's arrival, and then beat Barcelona 3-2 after extra time in the Supercopa semi-finals in January.

Former Barca playmaker Xavi has increasingly brought a serenity to affairs at a club where there was considerable chaos earlier in the campaign.

Now it will be Ancelotti's task to ensure Madrid are not left scarred by a defeat in which Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang ran the hosts ragged, scoring twice and teeing up another goal for Ferran Torres. Ronald Araujo also beat Thibaut Courtois, whose goal was peppered with shots as Madrid defended dreadfully.

Xavi became the third Barcelona coach to win his first LaLiga Clasico by four or more goals, after Ferdinand Daucik in 1951 (7-2) and Helenio Herrera in 1959 (4-0).

Ancelotti is optimistic Madrid's supporters will allow him and the team a blip, even one of such scale against the club's greatest enemies.

"They understood that it was not a good night," Ancelotti said. "We don't know what will happen in the coming months. We can recover and win the next game. I don't think this will affect the team."

Xavi perfectly embodies the characteristics of Barcelona and has improved the Catalan giants since taking over, according to Real Madrid counterpart Carlo Ancelotti.

The pair are set to face off at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday in the third and final Clasico of the season, with Madrid boasting a 10-point lead at the LaLiga summit.

Barcelona are five points further back, albeit with a game in hand, in what has been a disappointing campaign on the whole for the club.

Results have improved over the past two months, however, with Xavi – appointed as Ronald Koeman's successor in November – steadily transforming his side's fortunes.

Since Xavi's appointment, Barcelona have taken 34 points from 15 games in LaLiga, a record only bettered by Madrid since then (39 points).

Thursday's 2-1 win over Galatasaray helped Xavi's side through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League, meanwhile, and extended their unbeaten run to 11 matches.

That is Barca's longest-such streak since January 2020 under Ernesto Valverde, giving Xavi's side some momentum heading into their showdown with fierce rivals Madrid.

And Ancelotti, whose three defeats in five LaLiga meetings with Barca is his joint-worst against any side in LaLiga, along with Atletico Madrid, has been impressed by Xavi's work.

"The identity of Barcelona has not changed," he said at Saturday's pre-match news conference. "They are a team with a very clear style and Xavi embodies it perfectly. 

"Barcelona have improved a lot and they are in a good dynamic. My opinion is that he is doing very well."

 

Xavi is still early in his coaching career, especially in comparison to veteran of the dugout Ancelotti, with Sunday's clash his second taste of this historic fixture as a manager.

The midfield legend is aiming to avoid becoming only the third Barca boss, after Ernesto Valverde and Ronald Koeman, to lose his first two Clasicos this century.

Defeat for Barca would see them fall 18 points behind the leaders, but Ancelotti insists the game in the Spanish capital is not make-or-break for the visitors.

"If we win we have three more points; if we tie, one; if we lose, none," he said. "I wouldn't rule out Barcelona in any case, whatever happens. Because they will fight until the end."

Should Barca avoid defeat, Xavi will become only the second Barca coach to go unbeaten in his first 10 LaLiga away games after Ernesto Valverde, who was unbeaten in 18.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Karim Benzema will miss Sunday's Clasico clash with Barcelona.

The top scorer in LaLiga this season with 22 goals, Benzema will not be available to face the Blaugrana at Santiago Bernabeu.

The France international netted twice in Monday’s 3-0 victory over Real Mallorca, but limped off towards the end of the contest indicating a problem with his calf.

Ancelotti, who is also without Ferland Mendy, revealed that Benzema will also not link with Les Bleus during the forthcoming international break.

Addressing the media during his pre-match conference on Saturday, the Italian said: "Both [Benzema] and Mendy can't play and won't go to France either. They stay in Madrid.

"He hasn't trained with the group. He still has some discomfort.

"Karim is a very important part, because he finishes all the work, but without him, you have to keep that work and look for different solutions.

"It is already decided who is going to play [in his place]. But I'm not going to tell you."

Benzema's league goals have come at a rate of one every 93.55 minutes, while he also leads the assists standings with 11 to his name already.

Asked if he is concerned by Benzema's latest lay-off, Ancelotti said: "He is a player who is 34 years old and sometimes it can happen to him. 

"They are very minor annoyances and he has recovered very quickly. When he has come back, he has made a difference. 

"We have another two weeks to work with him and then he will make a difference again. 

"It doesn't worry me that he won't play tomorrow because we have time for him to play at the end of the season and make a difference."

Madrid sit comfortably top of LaLiga, armed with a 10-point lead over second-placed Sevilla. Barcelona, in third, are 15 points adrift of Madrid with a game in hand.

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti played down the injury concern of talisman Karim Benzema after the Frenchman appeared hurt soon after netting his second goal in a 3-0 win over Real Mallorca.

Benzema scored twice in five second-half minutes to put the game beyond Madrid's hosts on Monday, but he looked in some discomfort while celebrating Los Blancos' third goal.

Soon after, in the 85th minute, Benzema departed having indicated a problem with his calf, forcing Madrid to close out the match with 10 men as they had already used their five permitted substitutions.

The two goals moved Benzema's season tally to 22 in 25 LaLiga matches, and although Ancelotti admitted they are in "wait and see" mode, he does not expect anything serious.

A major problem for their key man would be a significant blow for Madrid ahead of Sunday's El Clasico.

"We have to evaluate him in the next few days – things don't seem very serious," Ancelotti said.

"Karim did not feel good after a jump – we have to wait until Wednesday [to learn more]."

Real Madrid now sit 10 points clear of second-placed Sevilla but face a serious test of their credentials next with the visit of a resurgent Barcelona.

Carlo Ancelotti thinks Real Madrid did not need to beat Paris Saint-Germain to prove an attractive prospect for the likes of Kylian Mbappe.

Karim Benzema's hat-trick secured a stunning comeback for Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League at the Santiago Bernabeu this week.

Mbappe gave PSG a 1-0 lead and a 2-0 aggregate advantage, but PSG suffered a collapse in the final half-hour as Benzema's treble sealed a 3-1 second-leg win and a 3-2 triumph in the tie.

Speculation has since emerged that Mbappe has already agreed a contract with Madrid to join on a free transfer from PSG at the end of the season.

With Madrid also tipped to battle for the signing of Erling Haaland in the next transfer window, Ancelotti was asked ahead of Monday's LaLiga game with Real Mallorca whether the result against PSG made his side more appealing to the world's top players.

He replied: "It's true that the game on Wednesday gave a really good picture of Real Madrid, but Real Madrid doesn't need that. It already has that picture in the world."

When asked whether he met with Mbappe, Ancelotti said: "No, I greeted [Marco] Verratti because he was my player when I coached PSG, and [sporting director] Leonardo, and the people I worked with back then in Paris.

"When you lose, you feel really bad, physically and mentally. All the PSG players were really disappointed. It's happened to everyone."

Ancelotti also denied that Madrid's progress to the quarter-finals has helped him to feel he has the backing of the fans and the club's hierarchy, his side having gone through a run of just one win in five games in all competitions in late January and February.

"Going through shows that everyone together brought Madrid to the quarter-finals," he said. "I don't need backing. The excitement to coach this team is so great that if they criticise you, it doesn't matter at all.

"It meant a lot [to go through], especially in terms of atmosphere. We saw the emotion the team gave to the fans, and what they gave to the team. It was very beautiful and very important.

"We know that, at the Bernabeu, the atmosphere is going to help us. And I'm very happy for the Madrid fans.

"In January, we went through a moment that wasn't so good, but we keep going, and hopefully we can win something this season."

Madrid's attention now turns to a trip to Mallorca knowing that, should Sevilla lose to Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, the leaders will have the chance to open up an 11-point gap at the top.

"We have good feelings," Ancelotti said. "I have all players available and all the ingredients to play a good game.

"Mallorca will give their utmost. Games in LaLiga tell you there's a lot of balance. There's a long way to go and everyone will give everything."

Carlo Ancelotti hailed Karim Benzema as a "fantastic leader" after the Real Madrid striker's sensational hat-trick dumped Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League on Wednesday.

PSG looked on course of the last eight when Kylian Mbappe put them 2-0 up on aggregate late in the first half.

Los Blancos roared back in the second period, though, thanks to Benzema's hat-trick – the second and third of which came within the space of just 106 seconds.

It saw him become the oldest scorer of a hat-trick in Champions League history (aged 34 years and 80 days), 17 days older than Olivier Giroud in December 2020 for Chelsea against Sevilla.

The treble also saw him move above Alfredo Di Stefano into third on Madrid's all-time top goalscorer list with 309.

Ancelotti was full of praise for the talismanic striker as Madrid overturned a first-leg deficit in a Champions League knockout tie for only the fourth time.

"Karim Benzema is a fantastic leader, a fantastic centre forward," he told reporters. 

"I'm very happy with what he's doing and his attitude.

"After the first goal, we got into a good dynamic, we pressed and controlled the ball better. We had fewer difficulties in the second half compared to the first. 

"At half-time, we said to ourselves that we had to stay in the game, even if it was difficult, thinking that something could happen.

"PSG are a great team with great players, but that's football, every little thing can change everything like that first goal."

PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino was adamant Madrid's first goal should have been ruled out for a foul by Benzema on goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, but Ancelotti did not agree with his opposite number. 

Asked if it was a foul, the Italian said: "I don't think so.

"We suffered a lot, but we held on. It was difficult to hold the ball, we tried to press then Karim's good pressure gave us the opportunity to win the game. During the last half hour, there was only one team on the field."

Benzema's third sparked jubilant scenes at the Santiago Bernabeu, with Ancelotti describing the stadium as "magic". 

"I have played many games in this competition and many difficult ones like this," he added. "This stadium has magic; it has a very beautiful history and that is what happens. Hopefully it will not be the last night like this."

Madrid return to domestic action on Monday when they visit Real Mallorca. 

Carlo Ancelotti is confident Real Madrid will knock Paris Saint-Germain out of the Champions League and says Toni Kroos will only play if he is fully fit.

PSG will start the second leg at Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday with a 1-0 lead courtesy of Kylian Mbappe's brilliant late winner three weeks ago.

Madrid might be facing a bigger challenge to reach the quarter-finals if Thibaut Courtois had not saved a Lionel Messi penalty at the Parc des Princes.

LaLiga leaders Madrid will be without the suspended Casemiro when they face Mauricio Pochettino's side and fellow midfielder Kroos missed the 4-1 thrashing of Real Sociedad on Saturday due to a hamstring injury.

Kroos has returned to training, but Ancelotti refused to state whether he will play against the Italian's former employers.

"If a player isn't 100 per cent fit he can't play, so we'll have to wait and see," he said.

Los Blancos have won three consecutive games since their defeat in the French capital and Ancelotti believes that run will continue.

The ex-PSG head coach said: "We want to stay alive in this competition. It's massive for us, massive for the club. we don't want to be knocked out of such an important competition.

"Life will go on and hopefully we will still be in competition. I am confident we will qualify, but PSG will also be confident."

Madrid look unstoppable in their quest to win LaLiga and Ancelotti is hopeful that will not be the only trophy they can get their hands on this season.

"I think we are having a good season, it has been good so far and every time we do something there is always a 'but'," he added.

"If Karim [Benzema] doesn't score [there is] a 'but', there are lots of opinions out there. I think we are having a good season and hopefully these last two months we can end the season on a high."

Benzema says Madrid were hurt by their loss in the French capital but does not expect more pain if Los Blancos play to the best of their ability.

The striker explained: "We are a proud team and that defeat hurt us, but we know that the best Real Madrid can compete with the best PSG. We saw the best PSG in the first leg and hopefully we will see the best Real Madrid on Wednesday."

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti says his side are "excited, eager, and motivated" for Wednesday's clash with Paris Saint-Germain, calling upon his players to harness the Bernabeu's fiery atmosphere but keep on top of any nerves.

LaLiga leaders Madrid go into their crucial home leg against PSG 1-0 down thanks to Kylian Mbappe's stunning winner at the Parc des Princes, with their hopes of winning a 14th European title this term hanging by a thread.

Madrid have been eliminated from nine of their last 10 knockout ties in the UEFA Champions League when losing the first leg, with the exception being a 3-2 aggregate victory over VfL Wolfsburg in the 2015-16 quarter-finals.

But Ancelotti, who has lifted European club football's foremost prize three times as a coach, insists that his team are approaching the game in good spirits.

"We are preparing for the game now," the 62-year-old said. 

"Everyone is motivated and it's obvious, from the coach's point of view, that it's important to be aware of the atmosphere [in the group] to make sure it isn't too nervous.

"These players are used to games like this. 

"I know exactly what the Bernabeu is like and we're even more motivated.

"We know perfectly well we're not playing this game by ourselves because the whole of Madridismo is behind us, driving us forward, and that makes us stronger."

Carlo Ancelotti feels Real Madrid will have a great chance of beating Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League if they maintain the standard they set in a thrashing of Real Sociedad.

Los Blancos came from behind to thrash sixth-placed La Real 4-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday and go eight points clear of Sevilla at the top of LaLiga.

Mikel Oyarzabal gave La Real an early lead from the penalty spot after Dani Carvajal upended David Silva, but sublime long-range strikes from Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modric gave Madrid a half-time advantage.

Karim Benzema scored his 20th LaLiga goal of the season from the penalty spot after having two strikes ruled out for offside and Marco Asensio added a fourth 11 minutes from time.

Madrid now turn their attention to overturning a 1-0 deficit when they face PSG in the second leg of their round-of-16 tie on Wednesday.

Ancelotti's side will have home advantage and the Italian wants to see the same tempo from his team when they take on the Ligue 1 leaders, who will come into the game on the back of a 1-0 loss to Nice.

He said: "We played really well from the beginning. The plan was to press up front, to stop Real Sociedad building attacks from the area. It worked.

"The physical effort was huge, we did well. If we play like this on Wednesday, we have a bigger chance of going through."

The Basques could not live with Madrid's intensity as they swept forward time and again at pace.

They zipped the ball around with great passing and movement in a dominant display, affording La Real just one shot, which gave Ancelotti great optimism heading into a huge European showdown against his former club.

"It was an important match because we had the opportunity to take advantage in LaLiga," he added, alluding to Sevilla's 0-0 draw with Deportivo Alaves on Friday. "The team has understood very well the importance of the match. It is a match that gives us great hope.

"This is the intensity that we have to have and that the fans like. It can be repeated on Wednesday against PSG.

"All of Madrid believes more after this game. The idea of ​​going out [to show their appreciation for the supporters] at the end of the game came from the players, because on Wednesday the help of the fans is essential."

Carlo Ancelotti has no doubt over the motivation of his Real Madrid side as he stressed Los Blancos are "where they want to be".

LaLiga leaders Madrid sat six points clear of second-placed Sevilla at the time of Ancelotti's news conference on Friday, though the Andalusian team might have narrowed that gap down to three before Los Blancos take on Real Sociedad on Saturday.

After seven consecutive wins over Sociedad in LaLiga between 2015 and 2018, Madrid have won just three of their past seven meetings with the Basque side in the top flight and Ancelotti is expecting a tough test.

However, the Italian insisted he is happy with the progress Madrid have made so far during his second spell in charge. While they are out of the Copa del Rey, Madrid are still favourites for the title and are in with a chance of Champions League progression, albeit they must overcome a 1-0 deficit from the first leg of their last-16 tie when they face Paris Saint-Germain next week.

"We have done really good things this season. It could have been better, but could have been worse as well," Ancelotti said.

"I'm honestly happy with the work we've done, the job we've done throughout the season.

"I think we've handled quite well the situations and now we are where we wanted to be in a very important moment of the season.

"It's true we are disappointed about being eliminated in the Copa del Rey when we didn't have Karim [Benzema] but we are six points clear of Sevilla, we have to fight until the end and we can also overcome PSG, so we are motivated to do it.

"I'd like to highlight it's four [league] games in a row that we didn't concede a goal and that's solidity."

Madrid have won 18, drawn six and lost two of their LaLiga matches this season and sit on 64 points. 

With just 12 games remaining, Ancelotti agreed with the suggestion that a relatively low points tally might be enough to secure the title this season, though he does not believe that is a reflection of LaLiga's declining quality – in fact, he mused that it means quite the opposite.

"It's true that now you don't have to reach that high of an amount of points but you can see from two different sides," he said.

"You can think the biggest teams have reached a level but you could also think that the rest of the teams had an upgrade. Right now there are really good coaches, really good players.

"This just means that LaLiga is better than the previous period."

Federico Valverde and Toni Kroos will be missing against Sociedad, though Ancelotti expects both to return in time to face PSG.

"Valverde will be available to play against PSG and I think also Kroos will be available, it's a small problem, I think both will be available and fit for that game," he said.

"It's not a problem, it's a bit of bad luck. We need to live with these type of things, it's normal at this part of the season. Kroos probably will have to stop for five, six days.

"At this moment of the season, these kinds of injuries means that we have managed the squad and also the physical condition [of the players] quite well."

Manchester United's search for a permanent manager continues to take up plenty of column inches, with a new name now entering the mix.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino and Ajax chief Erik ten Hag have long been considered the two frontrunners to take over at Old Trafford.

But a somewhat surprise candidate is now reportedly being considered to succeed interim manager Ralf Rangnick on a short-term basis at the end of the campaign.


TOP STORY – ANCELOTTI A CONTENDER FOR UNITED

According to ESPN, United may look to appoint Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti as they explore contingency plans in their pursuit of a new manager.

While Pochettino and Ten Hag remain on the Red Devils' managerial shortlist, Ancelotti is said to be seen as an ideal short-term fix thanks to his vast experience.

The Italian has previously spent time in English football with Everton and Chelsea, winning a Premier League and FA Cup with the latter in 2009-10.

Ancelotti is currently in his second spell with Madrid and has another two seasons to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.


ROUND-UP

- PSG have offered Kylian Mbappe a contract worth €50million a year to fend off interest from rival clubs, according to Le Parisian. Madrid are the strong favourites to sign the France international should he depart the Parc des Princes as a free agent in July.

- Andreas Christensen and Cesar Azpilicueta are also set to be out of contract at Chelsea in the next few months and are not short of potential suitors. Mundo Deportivo reports that Barcelona are confident of signing the pair, while Ajax's Noussair Mazraoui and Jose Gaya of Valencia are also targets.

- Madrid are hoping to replace Dani Carvajal at right-back ahead of next season and have a few potential options already lined up. That is according to El Nacional, with Man Utd's Diogo Dalot, Norwich City's Max Aarons and Pedro Porro of Sporting CP all mentioned.

- Sport claims that Barcelona are on course to wrap up contract extensions for Ronald Araujo and Gavi before the end of the month. Rising star Gavi will supposedly be offered a five-year deal that will include a mammoth release clause to ensure he stays at Camp Nou for the long term.

- Former Germany international Julian Weigl is nearing the end of his time at Benfica and has been offered to teams across the continent, according to Calciomercato. The Italian outlet suggests than Milan would prefer to sign Renato Sanches, potentially giving Roma a clear run for the €35m-rated midfielder.

Carlo Ancelotti said Real Madrid's goalkeeper Andriy Lunin has an elbow injury after he withdrew from the matchday squad for their 1-0 win at Rayo Vallecano, but revealed he has understandably been affected by Russia's invasion of his home country of Ukraine.

Lunin, who is second choice to Thibaut Courtois, dropped out of the squad on Friday.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Thursday, following weeks of rising political tensions in the region. The conflict escalated further on Friday, with the fighting reaching the capital city of Kyiv.

Several high-profile sports figures have publicly expressed their opposition to war, including Russia's Andrey Rublev who wrote "no war please" on a camera lens at the Dubai Tennis Championships, joining compatriot Daniil Medvedev in calling for peace.

In the Premier League, Manchester City and Everton showed solidarity with Ukraine ahead of their meeting at Goodison Park on Saturday.

City's Oleksandr Zinchenko and Everton's Vitaliy Mykolenko embraced during the warm-ups, the two Ukrainian players receiving a warm reception from fans inside the ground, with each appearing close to tears as more tributes were paid before kick-off.

Lunin was not present at Vallecas to receive any such support, with Ancelotti saying after the game: "He had a swelling in his elbow, he couldn't move it this morning. 

"It is a medical problem, but I cannot hide that the player is affected. He is thinking about what is happening there, he has people close to him in Kyiv."

Madrid left it late to secure all three points against their neighbours, Karim Benzema's 83rd-minute goal sealing victory.

Asked about the game, Ancelotti said in quotes reported by AS: "Satisfied with the work, with the commitment, we knew that it was going to be competitive in all facets. 

"We risked on the counter-attacks, we tried to combine up front and win the match. 

"We did, although I'm not very, very satisfied. It was a difficult field, because of the atmosphere, the rival, the grass that was not good... Nobody wins here by a large score."

Carlo Ancelotti has refuted suggestions that he could use Real Madrid's upcoming league games to prepare for their crucial Champions League second leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain, for which Casemiro and Ferland Mendy will be suspended.

Casemiro and Mendy picked up decisive yellow cards in the LaLiga leaders' 1-0 first-leg defeat to PSG, ruling them out of the crucial second leg in Spain next month. 

Brazil midfielder Casemiro has appeared in all seven of Real's Champions League games this season, while left-back Mendy has made five appearances, both establishing themselves as key parts of Ancelotti's attempts to bring the Spanish and European crowns back to the Bernabeu.

Speaking ahead of a trip to Rayo Vallecano, Ancelotti insisted that he will not use upcoming games to find the right balance for Real's reunion with PSG, highlighting the importance of their league fixtures.

"What can I tell you? It would be a good idea [to experiment] if we had friendly games," he said.

"But we have two really important games, finals, against Rayo Vallecano and Real Sociedad.

"Two victories would mean a lot in order to win LaLiga, [so] I will play my best starting 11 in the games before Paris Saint-Germain.

"Toni Kroos can replace Casemiro, but he doesn't need to get used to playing that [deeper] position, he has played it many times.

"I have experienced players, I don’t need to try new things. I Haven't thought yet about who will replace Casemiro and Mendy, as we have two really important matches before that."

Carlo Ancelotti believes the fans are still firmly behind Real Madrid despite a disappointing attendance for their 3-0 win over Deportivo Alaves on Saturday.

Madrid scored all three goals in the second half to go seven points clear at the top of LaLiga.

Marco Asensio's stunning long-range effort broke the deadlock in the 63rd minute, with Vinicius Junior and then Karim Benzema from the penalty spot making the points safe.

A performance in which they struggled to break Alaves down until Asensio's spectacular effort came after a Champions League showing at Paris Saint-Germain in which Madrid were fortunate to escape with a 1-0 defeat.

With a sparse, by their standards, crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu and whistles from the stands as Madrid initially laboured against their less illustrious opponents, Ancelotti was asked if the fans are disengaged.

"No, I perceive that the fans are with us," he replied at a post-match media conference. 

"I see them hooked, wanting us to win LaLiga. On Tuesday we played poorly, but today I think they have seen a reaction."

Madrid have not scored in the first half in all competitions since their Supercopa de Espana triumph over Athletic Bilbao last month.

"We have talked about it this week, that we need to enter the games with the necessary intensity," added Ancelotti. 

"In Bilbao, in December, we opened the scoring twice, but since then we have had more difficulties. The rivals press a lot in the first and usually go down in the second."

Vinicius had been enduring a goal drought stretching back to Madrid's 3-2 win over Barcelona in the Supercopa, with Ancelotti confident the end of that barren stretch will be a boost for the entire side.

"When strikers score, it's always essential," said Ancelotti. "He was having difficulties, but this game is going to help him and the whole team."

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.