Carlo Ancelotti branded Toni Kroos and Luka Modric as "untouchable" at Real Madrid, though did not confirm either midfielder will start against Barcelona.

Madrid head to Camp Nou on Wednesday for the second leg of a Copa del Rey semi-final tie that they trail 1-0 following Eder Militao's own goal in the reverse encounter last month.

Kroos, 33, and 37-year-old Modric both started that game, though the pair were substituted late in the second half.

While Kroos played the duration of Madrid's 6-0 win over Real Valladolid on Sunday, Modric was an unused substitute.

That would suggest Ancelotti was protecting the latter ahead of the third Clasico the space of a month, but Madrid's coach declared neither of his veteran campaigners in midfield are guaranteed starters.

"Kroos and Modric are untouchable but that doesn't mean they're going to play tomorrow," Ancelotti told reporters.

"There are many untouchables but then you have to choose an eleven. I have to think about the resources I have on the bench.

"Starting isn't the most important thing, the important thing is to be effective [the game]."

 

While Kroos and Modric approach the twilight of their careers, Madrid are looking to build for the future with Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga, who has been a consistent starter since the season resumed following the World Cup.

Asked about the importance of the physicality and athleticism that the France duo can provide, Ancelotti said: "If we talk about energy, it's clear that in these games it's important.

"An effective start from above can also give you an advantage."

However, he acknowledged "there's a lot of pressure in these games", adding that "the experience of veterans can be important".

With Madrid one of the clubs reportedly pushing to sign Borussia Dortmund star Jude Bellingham, Kroos and Modric could face uncertain futures. 

They are both entering the final few months of their contracts, albeit renewals are said to be on the table.

"I see the players every day and they are very focused. It can be thought that when a contract ends it can affect them," Ancelotti said.

"It doesn't affect them and I don't have to tell them anything because they are very professional.

"Each one has to evaluate the role they have. It is the discussion that a player has to make and if they want to renew it is because they like the role they have."

Asked if he will discuss his team selection with any players left out of his starting XI, Ancelotti added: "Nothing special. I cannot talk to every single player who is not going to start.

"If they need to talk, my door is always open, but this group of players do not ask about explanations, they understand the situation, the moment.

"There are a lot of players who are very important, and the door will always be open to them."

Carlo Ancelotti has Dida's backing as the potential new Brazil head coach, and the former Selecao goalkeeper expects Neymar to have a key role again under the next boss.

Real Madrid coach Ancelotti is the subject of increasing speculation around the vacant Brazil post, with Tite having departed following a disappointing 2022 World Cup.

Under-20s coach Ramon Menezes has taken interim charge, but Ancelotti would appear to be a popular long-term appointment.

Dida, who won two Champions Leagues under Ancelotti at Milan, certainly believes the Italian would be the right man for the job – if he leaves Madrid.

"Ancelotti is a great manager. Everybody knows," Dida told Stats Perform. "I think CBF and the Brazil national team is considering a coach with great potential.

"I hope he's going to sign, but he still has a contract with Real Madrid. I don't know what's going to happen.

"I support him. He is a great manager, and he will do well with Brazil."

If Ancelotti takes the role, he will link up with Neymar, Brazil's talisman of the past 10 years.

The Selecao have won only a single Copa America in that time, with injuries to Neymar playing a big role in their failure to add a sixth world title.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is out for the rest of the season, but Dida is standing by him.

"He's a great player," Dida said of Neymar. "He will play for many years, with the national team, too. He is a top-class player.

"Unfortunately, he's been injured many times. He will come back stronger to help the national team."

Carlo Ancelotti professed his love for Real Madrid and appeared to allay worries about his future at the club after Sunday's 6-0 demolition of Real Valladolid.

The experienced Italian has been strongly linked with the vacant head coach role with the Brazil national team, who have been searching for a new boss since Tite's exit at the end of the World Cup.

Several Brazil players have publicly backed Ancelotti for the job with the Selecao in recent weeks, and Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues also confirmed an interest.

Ancelotti declared a desire to stay with Madrid on Friday, but then caused a little concern in some circles when adding that "the future is unknown".

After seeing Karim Benzema inspire a big win on Sunday with a hat-trick, Ancelotti showed no signs of stress.

Speaking to Los Blancos legend Guti – who revealed that Friday's comments left him anxious – on DAZN, Ancelotti said: "Do I look worried about my future, Guti?

"I love Madrid as much as you do."

Madrid may be well adrift of LaLiga leaders Barcelona but Sunday's victory – during which Karim Benzema scored a first-half hat-trick – was a reminder of just how devastating they can be when in the mood.

Success cut Barca's lead back down to 12 points, and while that will in all likelihood prove an insurmountable gap, Ancelotti was keen to emphasise how crucial he believed the win to be.

"[It was] key. At first, we suffered a bit, and they had chances. But as soon as we made it 1-0, everything was easier," he said.

"The transitions were spectacular and Karim was at his best level. Everything went well."

The game included a second-half cameo for Eden Hazard, who was making just his fourth LaLiga appearance of the season.

It was the 32-year-old Belgian's first league outing since September, and although his introduction was greeted by jeers, he looked fairly sharp.

In 25 minutes, he registered four key passes – bettered by only Marco Asensio's five – and set up Lucas Vazquez's stoppage-time goal, with Ancelotti adamant Hazard can be a useful option during the run-in – assuming he stays fit.

"I heard [the whistles], yes," Ancelotti said. "Eden has trained well this break. He has played very little, but he has done well and has given an assist. He's training well, he can have opportunities."

Carlo Ancelotti has said he wants to continue at Real Madrid amid links to the vacant Brazil head coach job, but also admitted "the future is unknown".

Ancelotti's name has been strongly linked to the Selecao since former coach Tite left at the end of the 2022 World Cup, with some of his Brazilian players at Madrid speaking openly about it during the international break.

President of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) Ednaldo Rodrigues also recently confirmed an interest in appointing the former Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain boss as the next head coach of the national side.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday ahead of Madrid's LaLiga clash with Real Valladolid, Ancelotti seemed to pledge his allegiance to Los Blancos, though stopped short of confirming he would not ultimately take the Brazil role.

"The only thing that concerns me right now is to be successful with this club," he said.

"I will remain here for as long as Real Madrid want me to. I feel affection from the president, from the players, from the fans.

"Also the atmosphere here is quite calm, quite good, and we have two months ahead in which we will try to win some titles and hopefully I will continue here as Real Madrid head coach."

He added: "The truth is that the Brazil national team wants me, they are interested in me and I love that. But then you have to respect contracts and there's a current contract with Real Madrid and I would like to continue here."

The 63-year-old has a deal at the Santiago Bernabeu until 2024, but despite winning LaLiga, the Supercopa de Espana and the Champions League last season, has come under some pressure after falling away from Barcelona in the title race this time round.

"Everyone can think or say what they want, but reality is reality," he said. "In this case it's quite simple, I have a contract with Real Madrid and I want to continue here.

"I love this club and everything that can happen later, I don't know. The future is unknown."

Ancelotti also insisted the rumours about him and some of his players whose contract situations remain up in the air is not affecting preparations as the club aim to end the campaign strongly in the league, Copa del Rey and Champions League.

"We do not talk about these rumours in the dressing room, all we are focused on is Valladolid, Barcelona, Chelsea - all these big games coming up," he said.

The president of the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) has confirmed an interest in appointing Carlo Ancelotti as the next head coach of the national side.

Brazil are yet to name a permanent successor to Tite, who left following a quarter-final exit at the World Cup in Qatar, with the role likely to be filled at the end of the season.

Ancelotti remains contracted with Real Madrid until the completion of the 2023-24 season, but the Italian has been heavily touted to take the reins of the South American giants, with players among those talking up the possibility.

Ednaldo Rodrigues admitted he was the favourite among supporters and players, while acknowledging he was the confederation's main target.

"Ancelotti is unanimously respected among players. Not only Ronaldo Nazario or Vinicius Jr but all those that have played for him," he told Reuters.

"I really admire him for his honesty in the way he works and how constant his work is. He needs no introductions. He is really a top coach who he has several achievements, and we hope he can have even more.

"Ancelotti is not only the players' favourite, but it seems the fans' too. Everywhere I go in Brazil, in every stadium, he is the first name the supporters ask me about.

"They talk about him in a very affectionate way, in recognition of the exemplary work he has done in his career.

"Let's have faith in God, wait for the appropriate time and we'll see if we can make it happen as we look for the new coach of the Brazilian national team."

However, despite the abundance of praise and appeal of hiring Ancelotti, Rodrigues made it clear no formal approach has taken place and called for patience in the hunt for a new boss.

"We will be very ethical in our approach and respect the contracts that are in place. We also greatly respect the work that is done by any coach and his club to get there and make any kind of approach, it would be a lack of respect for the president of the clubs in question," he added.

"Therefore, we have the patience to wait for the right moment so that we can hold these conversations.

"Nothing is really defined yet to say the name [of the next coach] for sure, but it's within this line, you understand? We need a coach who has the players' respect and admiration."

Casemiro is the latest Brazil player to endorse his former Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti for the Selecao's vacant head coach position.

Brazil are yet to appoint a successor to Tite, whose six-year stint in charge came to an end after the five-time world champions were knocked out at the quarter-final stage of the 2022 World Cup by Croatia.

Ramon Menezes, who guided Brazil's Under-20s to South American U-20 Championship in February, has taken over on an interim basis for Saturday's friendly against Morocco.

The coach who has been linked with the full-time role the most, however, is Ancelotti.

Several Brazil players have openly approved his potential candidacy and Casemiro joined the chorus, though the former Madrid player reminded his team-mates of a need to respect Ancelotti's employers.

"Firstly, what we players would like to have is a capable coach with great players," Casemiro told reporters on Friday.

"We have 30, 40, 50 players of exceptional level. You could make three, four teams that could compete with any other team in the world.

"As far as Ancelotti is concerned, he is a coach that I already know, I know very well. He is a friend of mine, he is someone I have admired in football and it was a pleasure to work with him.

"But there is also another side to this; Ancelotti has a club, which is Real Madrid. We have to respect the club and Ancelotti."

He added: "Ancelotti has already won everything in his career. He is a coach with a lot of experience and, without a doubt Ancelotti is a great coach."

Casemiro was also careful not to completely rule Ramon out of the running.

A former Brazil international who enjoyed a 26-year professional career and has spent much of the past decade in various coaching roles, Ramon is not thought to be among the frontrunners for the full-time job.

But Casemiro pointed out the 50-year-old now has an opportunity to stake his claim and insisted the players are treating him as if he was there for the long term.

"We also have a coach here, who is Ramon," Casemiro continued. "He is not the permanent one, but he is here to play this game and we know that in life there are opportunities.

"Today, he is not permanent, but if he does a great job, [and] if the names that the president [of the Brazilian Football Confederation] wants do not accept, Ramon is there.

"From the moment I came here, I am respecting that and treating him as if he was the coach of a World Cup. Not only me, but all the players are respecting him because he is the coach now, and you have to have respect for the coach."

Rodrygo joked Brazil's Real Madrid contingent are all eagerly awaiting Carlo Ancelotti to take over as the Selecao's new head coach.

Madrid boss Ancelotti has been strongly linked with the job, despite still having another year to run on his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Rodrygo is one of three Madrid players in the Brazil squad, along with Eder Militao and Vinicius Junior, and he would welcome the appointment of Ancelotti as Tite's successor.

"We joke with him: 'Wow, coach, we're waiting for you there'," Rodrygo told Globo. "He jokes that we'll make the squad list together, the four of us in the same room.

"We talk in a joking tone, but every joke has a bit of truth. The situation is difficult because it means he'd have to leave Madrid.

"That way I can't say anything beforehand, but of course it would be an honour to have him here."

The Brazilian Football Confederation last month denied an agreement had been reached with Ancelotti to replace Tite, who left after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final elimination to Croatia.

Ancelotti has won 25 trophies across his 28-year managerial career, including four Champions League titles – two with Milan and two in separate spells with Madrid.

Speaking earlier this week, goalkeeper Ederson suggested "there is a big possibility" Ancelotti will take charge of the five-time world champions.

"Just look at his CV. We will know shortly whether he will be here or not," Ederson said. "I hope we can have a new coach quickly.

"I feel the anticipation too because there's too much speculation. Is it a Brazilian or a foreign coach? We are also living that phase of anxiety."

Under-20 coach Ramon Menezes will oversee Brazil's friendly with Morocco in Tangier on Saturday.

Ederson believes there is "a big possibility" Carlo Ancelotti will take over as the next head coach of Brazil.

Real Madrid boss Ancelotti has been touted as a contender to succeed Tite, who stepped down as planned after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final defeat to Croatia.

Ancelotti is under contract with Madrid until the end of next season, while the Brazilian Football Confederation last month denied an agreement had been reached with the Italian.

However, speaking at a press conference ahead of Brazil's friendly with Qatar 2022 semi-finalists Morocco, Ederson said he would not be surprised to see Ancelotti take charge.

"I was discussing this with Casemiro, Vinicius Junior, [Eder] Militao. There is a big possibility that he comes," said Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson.

Ancelotti has won 25 trophies across his 28-year managerial career, including four Champions League titles, two for Milan and two in separate spells with Madrid.

"Just look at his CV. We will know shortly whether he will be here or not," Ederson said. "I hope we can have a new coach quickly.

"I feel the anticipation too because there's too much speculation. Is it a Brazilian or a foreign coach? We are also living that phase of anxiety."

Asked last month about the possibility of taking over from Tite, who spent six and a half years in charge of Brazil, Ancelotti said: "I have a contract with Real Madrid until 2024."

Under-20 coach Ramon Menezes will oversee Saturday's friendly with Morocco in Tangier.

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid deserved to defeat Barcelona as the Los Blancos coach questioned the late VAR decision to rule out Marco Asensio's' goal in Sunday's 2-1 Clasico loss.

Substitute Asensio thought he had snatched a late winner at Camp Nou, turning home from Dani Carvajal's cross in the 81st minute before a lengthy VAR check adjudged the Spain international to be offside.

Franck Kessie coolly finished past Thibaut Courtois 11 minutes later as Barca grabbed a last-gasp victory to move 12 points clear at the summit of LaLiga.

Ancelotti was unconvinced by the decision to disallow the goal for Asensio, who was deemed to be in front of Jules Kounde, but lauded a resilient Madrid performance on Sunday.

The Italian said to Movistar: "You have to accept [the decision]. But I'm left with doubt. Surely there is nothing. We have the right to have that doubt.

"We played a good game, we deserved to win, it was won. Then there is the question of this goal that was disallowed.

"We tried everything at the end, we lost a bit of balance and they scored. The game was very good, we leave with the confidence that we can finish the season well."

With 12 league games left to play after the international break, and a two-legged Champions League quarter-final against Chelsea to follow in April, Ancelotti vowed Madrid will battle until the end.

"We are going to fight for all competitions, to the maximum," he added. "We have to try to play like this again. If we play like this we will win something, for sure."

Defeat to Barca came just four days after the Champions League last-16 victory over Liverpool and Ancelotti suggested Madrid are suffering from a gruelling schedule.

"We have a greater disadvantage than before and it is even more difficult, but we are going to play until the last game," he told reporters at his post-match press conference.

"The plan did not change with the substitutions we made, only the individual characteristics change, such as [yellow] cards, suspensions and fatigue."

Ancelotti also acknowledged Madrid's title charge was hampered by a disappointing return to club action after the mid-season World Cup break.

"January has cost us a lot because after the World Cup it was difficult for us to recover our condition," he continued.

"But we are going to finish the season well. Today the game was good, with a good approach, with good changes."

Franck Kessie scored a dramatic late winner as Barcelona took a significant step towards LaLiga glory with a 2-1 Clasico victory over Real Madrid on Sunday.

Blaugrana midfielder Kessie stroked home in the 92nd minute at Camp Nou to send Xavi's side 12 points clear of Madrid, who thought they had won it earlier when Marco Asensio saw an 81st-minute strike ruled out.

A somewhat comical Ronald Araujo own goal had offered Madrid an early lead before Sergi Roberto restored parity in the 45th minute.

Kessie's late intervention, placing past Thibaut Courtois, arrived after Asensio's finish was ruled out for offside as Barca closed on the title with 12 league games left to play.

Courtois produced impressive stops to thwart Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha but Madrid struck first after nine minutes.

Araujo inexplicably headed into his own net at the near post when attempting to defend Vinicius Junior's hopeful left-wing centre.

Courtois kept a Barca response at bay, denying Andreas Christensen's inventive flick and a fizzing Raphinha drive, although Xavi's men finally fought back on the stroke of half-time.

A desperate Eder Militao block against Raphinha saw the ball fall to Sergi Roberto, who fired into the bottom-right corner after a slight deflection wrong-footed Courtois.

Another deflected effort almost undid Madrid again after the interval, though Lewandowski's attempt off Eduardo Camavinga whistled wide to Courtois' left.

Asensio thought he had snatched victory when turning home Dani Carvajal's right-wing cross, only for a VAR review to adjudge the substitute offside.

More late drama was to follow when Kessie coolly finished into the bottom-right corner from Alejandro Balde's low centre as Barca edged closer towards a first top-flight crown since 2019.

Xavi entrusted Sergi Roberto with a key midfield role for Barcelona as the LaLiga front-runners took on Real Madrid in a titanic Clasico.

Barcelona went into Sunday's match at Camp Nou with a nine-point lead over second-placed Madrid, making the fixture hugely significant given just 12 rounds of games remain after the international break.

The hosts were without Pedri due to fitness concerns, and this was an occasion where Barcelona boss Xavi opted on the side of pragmatism, packing his midfield as Sergi Roberto stepped up from right-back, where he featured in last week's win over Athletic Bilbao.

Although Sergi Roberto has come in for criticism at times, Xavi is a former team-mate of his and considered him the right man for the big occasion, with Franck Kessie, another midfield option, named on the bench.

Ferran Torres was a starter against Athletic but dropped to the bench this time as Barcelona fielded a front two of Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, with massed ranks behind them.

Sergi Roberto was joined in midfield by a fellow veteran campaigner in Sergio Busquets, with Frenkie de Jong in there too, along with teenage livewire Gavi.

Ronald Araujo returned from suspension at right-back, and his battle with Madrid winger Vinicius Junior was widely expected to be a key contest.

Madrid won 3-1 at the Santiago Bernabeu when these sides met in the league earlier in the season, but Barcelona snatched a 1-0 victory at the same venue in the Copa del Rey in early March.

Carlo Ancelotti's visitors were captained by Karim Benzema, with Eduardo Camavinga preferred to Aurelien Tchouameni in midfield, where Luka Modric and Toni Kroos also featured.

Barcelona came into the game having lost five of their last six league Clasicos, with Madrid winning on their last two LaLiga visits to Camp Nou.

Los Blancos have only ever won three successive league games at Barcelona, between January 1963 and February 1965, but their title hopes for this season arguably rested on them repeating that feat.

Carlo Ancelotti announced he wants to stay at Real Madrid "for the rest of my life" ahead of a Clasico that could have major repercussions for his future at the club.

The former Milan, Bayern Munich and Chelsea boss signed a three-year contract when he arrived from Everton in June 2021 to replace Zinedine Zidane.

However, if Madrid finish this season empty-handed, there will inevitably be doubts over whether the Italian should stay in command.

They won the Champions League and LaLiga last term, and remain firmly in the hunt for a defence of the European title, having reached the quarter-finals, where Chelsea await them.

However, should they lose to Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday, Madrid will be 12 points behind their fierce rivals with 12 rounds of LaLiga games remaining. They also trail the Catalans 1-0 after the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final.

Ancelotti realises there is no guarantee Madrid will let him see out his contract through to 2024, particularly if they end this campaign without silverware, but he believes his team can finish the season with a flourish and flip the narrative.

"It is an evaluation that the club must make. I would stay at this club for the rest of my life," Ancelotti said. "It is impossible, but I would like to. It is a decision of the club, and it will take it at the end of the season.

"My thought is I want to continue, I hope it's like that. But I enjoy every day that the club wants me here. If you want it to be for three months, I'll enjoy it; if it's for three years, the same. The clear thing is that I'll be grateful for the rest of my life."

Ancelotti, 63, has also bossed Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain in a stellar career, and Madrid would be hard pushed to find a more authoritative figure. This is his second spell at the club, with Madrid president Florentino Perez a firm admirer.

There is a theory that Madrid coaches that fall short of winning titles have their fate already written.

But Ancelotti said: "The written rules change, and the unwritten ones, too. I am convinced that we are going to win something, so the topic is over."

His first stint as Madrid boss ended when the 2014-15 season yielded UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup titles but not the key trophy objectives: LaLiga, Copa del Rey and Champions League.

Madrid have won five of their last six matches against Barcelona in LaLiga – a 3-1 home success in October among them – having not won any of the previous seven.

Those recent wins have included victories on their last two league visits to Camp Nou, and Ancelotti's side will be attempting to become just the second Madrid team to win three times in a row at the home of their Clasico rivals in LaLiga.

The only time it was previously achieved was in a run from January 1963 to February 1965.

Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid have not contemplated defeat in Sunday's Clasico as they fight to keep LaLiga title hopes alive.

Defeat at Camp Nou would be a devastating blow to last season's champions and leave them 12 points adrift with 12 rounds of games remaining.

Head coach Ancelotti told his players to treat Barcelona "as a lion, not as a cat", predicting even he would be nervous about entering their den, but he pledged Madrid would go on the attack.

Italian boss Ancelotti has won three of his seven LaLiga meetings against Barcelona, losing the other four. He can become the fifth Real Madrid coach to win four or more Clasicos in LaLiga, after Miguel Munoz (12), Francisco Bru (5), Luis Molowny (5) and Zinedine Zidane (4).

If he and Madrid fall short, many will see the title race as being effectively over. Ancelotti is not so sure, but that is because he has not allowed defeat to enter his mind.

"I don't know, we didn't think about that," he said. "We thought about winning. If we don't win, we'll think about it.

"We have to see Barca as a lion, not as a cat. If we see them as a cat, it seems like we are going to a party. We are going to play against a great team, and it's an important game.

"In these games there's always fear, of course, but that's normal. It's fear, nerves. For me, the two hours before kick-off are the worst."

Barcelona won 1-0 against Madrid at the start of March in the Copa del Rey. That success at the Santiago Bernabeu came despite the visitors having just 35.2 per cent of possession, and a second leg of that semi-final is still to come at Camp Nou on April 5.

In LaLiga alone, Barcelona have had nine 1-0 wins this season, the most they have ever had in a single league campaign. Once they get a lead, they dig in their claws and fight to protect their prey.

This is business time in Spain, and Madrid and Barcelona are used to meeting each other at this stage of a season, as the destination of the trophies is scrapped over.

Should Madrid win on Sunday, the deficit would be down to six points and seeds of doubt might be planted into Barcelona minds.

Madrid's best chance of a trophy still probably lies in the competition where they are the undoubted lions and 14-times winners: the Champions League. A last-eight clash with Chelsea awaits them in that competition.

"The data shows we have a disadvantage in the Copa and in LaLiga, and where we don't have it is in the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "Anything can happen. We want to reduce the disadvantage in LaLiga."

For the Clasico, Ancelotti has told his players to "enjoy the moment, be the protagonists", saying they can win the defensive and attacking battles.

"Tomorrow we will play offensively, yes," he added. "Offensively, but without risks.

"We have the plan, the two teams know each other very well. We have no secrets."

It's fair to say Serie A sides have enjoyed themselves on the continental stage this season, with six Italian clubs reaching major European quarter-finals for the first time this century.

Three of those teams have been making waves in the Champions League, for which Luciano Spalletti's Napoli have been touted as genuine contenders after outscoring every other team in the competition.

Meanwhile, rivals Milan and Inter went about their last-16 assignments in quietly impressive fashion, seeing off Tottenham and Porto respectively, both winning 1-0 on aggregate.

With three of Italy's finest reaching the last eight, a first all-Italian Champions League meeting since 2005 was always highly probable, and so it proved with Milan and Napoli paired together.

With the winner of that tie set to face either Inter or Benfica in the semi-finals, the prospect of a first Italian Champions League winner since Inter's class of 2009-10 has perhaps never appeared more realistic.

Ahead of a blockbuster tie between last season's Serie A winners and their likely successors, Stats Perform looks back at the Champions League's previous all-Italian tussles.

Shevchenko decisive in tight derby double-header

Given the remarkable European pedigree enjoyed by seven-time European Cup/Champions League winners Milan, the fact that the Rossoneri have featured in all five previous all-Italian games in the competition is perhaps unsurprising. 

The first two of those came at the semi-final stage in the 2002-03 campaign, when Milan and Inter faced off in a tense double-header ultimately decided by a Rossoneri great.

Milan had reached the last four courtesy of Jon Dahl Tomasson's last-gasp strike against Ajax, while the Nerazzurri edged out Valencia on away goals.

Hector Cuper's men had less luck with that rule against their rivals, with Andriy Shevchenko's 'away' goal deciding a tie which ended 1-1 on aggregate – despite, of course, both legs being held at San Siro.

Inter's Obafemi Martins set up a tense finish after coming on as a substitute, but Carlo Ancelotti's team held on to reach a first final since 1995 – where they would face another domestic rival.

Dida wins battle of the goalkeepers at Old Trafford

Italian football's reputation for being risk-averse has not always been warranted, but given the way 2003's Champions League final between Milan and Juventus played out, that tag is perhaps understandable. 

Juve had already edged out both Milan giants to win Serie A by the time they faced the Rossoneri at Old Trafford, for what represented Marcello Lippi's fourth Champions League final with the Bianconeri (winning in 1996, losing in 1997, 1998 and 2003).

Both defences were on top throughout a nail-biting affair, with Shevchenko seeing a goal ruled out for offside and Antonio Conte rattling the crossbar as the game went to a penalty shoot-out.

With both goalkeepers clearly advancing off the goal line for each spot-kick, Gianluigi Buffon saved from Clarence Seedorf and Kakha Kaladze – only for Dida to go one better by denying David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero as Milan won their sixth European crown.

 

Dida in the spotlight again as violent scenes mar San Siro clash

Dida was again in the spotlight when two Italian sides last squared off in the Champions League – this time for all the wrong reasons.

The 2004-05 quarter-finals featured another heavyweight derby clash between Milan and Inter – who, as was the case two years earlier – finished the Serie A season in second and third respectively as Juventus triumphed.

Milan have always been Italy's European kings, however, and goals from Jaap Stam and Shevchenko put them in the ascendency as Ancelotti's men won the 'home' leg 2-0.

When Shevchenko's first-half effort put the Rossoneri ahead in the return game and Inter – now requiring four goals – saw an Esteban Cambiasso strike ruled out for a foul, the Nerazzurri supporters reacted furiously.

Flares rained down from the stands onto the San Siro pitch, with Dida struck on the shoulder and left requiring treatment for a burn.

Referee Markus Merk attempted to restart the game after a lengthy delay, but when Christian Abbiati was targeted with further missiles, the game was abandoned and Milan were awarded a 3-0 win, making it 5-0 on aggregate and leading to condemnation from across the continent. 

From a Milan point of view, the less said about their subsequent trip to Istanbul for the 2005 final against Liverpool, the better.

Graham Potter acknowledged Chelsea's turnaround in form has involved an element of luck, though he also praised the "fight" of his players as he bids to continue the team's recent revival.

The Blues have won their last three games across all competitions, having previously struggled to string together a run of results since the mid-season restart.

Progress to the Champions League quarter-finals – where they have been rewarded with a tie against holders Real Madrid – has helped to ease the immediate pressure on Potter.

But ahead of Chelsea's final game before the March international break, a clash against Everton at home in the Premier League, Potter acknowledged his side had still needed the wind to blow their way in recent weeks.

"You need luck," he said after the wins over Leeds United, Borussia Dortmund and Leicester City.

"As much as you can be good, it is important to be lucky.

"But you can't wait for that to come around and sometimes you have to fight through the storm.

"We've come out of it with three wins, but we need to carry that form on. Now there are three points up for grabs against a tough team."

Pressed on drawing Real Madrid in the Champions League, a few days after he outlined his desire to lead the Blues to success in the competition, Potter insisted his focus was the Everton fixture on Saturday.

But on the subject of ex-Toffees boss Carlo Ancelotti, who is chasing back-to-back triumphs with the Spanish side in Europe, he was unequivocal in his praise.

"I've played against him when he was at Everton," he added. "He is a gentleman and there's nothing I can say in terms of the respect I have for what he's achieved in his career.

"I think the length of time he's had between Champions League wins – twenty years – is incredible.

"[But] where we are now is to focus on Everton. They play to their strengths and that is what we must focus on."

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