Carlo Ancelotti has lauded the “special” job his Real Madrid players are doing this season ahead of their trip to Deportivo Alaves in LaLiga on Thursday.

Madrid, sitting in second, have added David Alaba to their now six-man long injury list after the Austrian international damaged a cruciate ligament.

And Ancelotti praised his available players for challenging Girona at the top of the table and called for them to finish 2023 on a high.

“We want to keep up the good momentum we’ve had in the last few games, get the three points and finish this 2023 campaign on a high note.” Ancelotti said.

“It’s a very complicated moment of the season.

“Fortunately, I have the players to thank for pulling through. It’s not that we’re doing a special job, we have to invent something, but what is special is what this squad is doing at such a tough time.”

Alaba’s serious knee injury comes after both Eder Militao and Thibaut Courtois suffering the same injury this season.

Ancelotti admitted the nature of cruciate ligament damage is horrific and shed some light on when Militao and Courtois could return to action.

He added: “The cruciate injury is an horrific injury. You can’t prevent it.

“Players who haven’t had any knee problems have had this injury. It’s something you can’t control. It’s different from muscle injuries, which can be caused by fatigue.

“Let’s see what happens in the second half of the season. In March or April we may be thinking that Militao or Courtois could come back if everything goes well with their respective recoveries.”

The Real Madrid boss hinted that the club may dip into the transfer market during January to add centre-back options.

He said: “We have spoken to the club and we will evaluate it over the next few days. We have time because the January transfer window ends on the 31st.

“We will look for the best possible solution, but for now we’re not in a hurry. We will try to finish the year well with tomorrow’s game and then we have time to make the best possible decision.”

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has begun his recovery since undergoing surgery to repair his torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The Belgium international sustained the serious injury to his left knee in a training session and has now returned back to the Real Madrid setup to begin his first steps in rehabilitation.

Courtois took to X – formerly known as Twitter – to give supporters an update on his fitness, he said: “Thank you to everyone for the support and the energy!

“Little by little I’m taking the first steps in my recovery.”

Since the injury to Courtois, Real Madrid have signed Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga on a season-long loan deal as a replacement and the Spain stopper kept a clean sheet on his debut, a 1-0 victory over Celta Vigo on the weekend.

Kepa, 28, has previously spoken of his intention of making the move permanent and could compete with Courtois for the number one jersey when the Belgian returns to the fold.

Thibaut Courtois insisted Real Madrid have not given up hope of catching LaLiga leaders Barcelona and dramatically retaining their title.

It would take a Barcelona collapse and consistent winning from Madrid to transform the situation at the top of the Spanish top flight.

Although Madrid won 2-0 on Saturday against Celta Vigo to trim Barcelona's lead to eight points, the Catalans had a home game against Atletico Madrid coming up on Sunday.

Were Barcelona to win that, their lead would be back to 11 points with eight rounds of games remaining. Even if Barcelona were to lose, their lead would still be such that they would remain firm title favourites.

Still, Madrid see no reason to give up hope, with goalkeeper Courtois telling broadcaster DAZN: "We are going to fight until the last game, until it is mathematically impossible."

He said it was "a pity" Madrid had dropped points at times this season but signalled that Champions League commitments can impact on domestic results.

Last season saw Madrid pull off a Champions League and LaLiga double, and they are through to the semi-finals in Europe once again this term, with home and away games against Manchester City coming up in May, plus a Copa del Rey final against Osasuna.

That cup showdown comes on May 6, and Courtois said: "We want to win on the next three matchdays and when the time comes for the cup final, we'll see how far away we are.

"We want to keep winning and have a good feeling ahead of the Champions League. It's key that we're all well. Hopefully we end the season well."

Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti made five changes to his starting XI, four days on from his team's 2-0 win at Chelsea that clinched a 4-0 aggregate quarter-final win against his former club in the Champions League.

Marco Asensio, one of those brought in, rifled the opening goal, and his corner set up Eder Militao to head the second.

"Making an XI is complicated, because we are lucky to have a plugged in dressing room," Ancelotti said. "We must rotate, because this part of the season is very demanding."

The veteran coach was concerned about the playing surface and said the Santiago Bernabeu pitch "has to improve", while Ancelotti also paid tribute to the all-action Eduardo Camavinga, thriving at left-back after the 20-year-old was recently switched from midfield.

Camavinga had a team-high 113 touches and completed six of seven dribbles, with both aspects being the most he has achieved in a LaLiga game for Madrid.

"He has extraordinary quality. He has energy and is complete," said Ancelotti. "As such, he can play any position successfully."

Carlo Ancelotti believed Thibaut Courtois' performance was critical for Real Madrid in their Champions League elimination of Chelsea.

The former Blues goalkeeper enjoyed a fine game in Tuesday's second leg as Rodrygo's second-half double helped Madrid to a 2-0 win and 4-0 aggregate quarter-final triumph.

Before the Brazilian found the net, Courtois had been imperative to denying Chelsea a lifeline in the contest with a superb stop to deny Marc Cucurella.

Speaking afterwards, Ancelotti lauded his goalkeeper's contribution while paying tribute to his side for how they soaked up the pressure at Stamford Bridge.

"They were ahead on the scoreboard [mentally]," he told Movistar. "The save was very important. In the second half, we managed better, we had more space.

"We knew that we had to suffer in this type of game. [Chelsea] tried everything, they created problems for us. It has been a complete game, and a deserving tie."

Rodrygo echoed his coach's comments, lauding Courtois while touching on the pressures of ensuring Madrid live up to expectations with a semi-final appearance.

"We suffered today at the beginning, but there [Courtois] was again to save us," he added. "We have the obligation to reach the semi-finals every year.

"We've achieved it every year since I've been here. I don't know what happens to me with this competition, but it is very special, and I am very happy."

Madrid will face either Manchester City or Bayern Munich in the last four, with the Premier League side favourites to join them after a hefty 3-0 first-leg win.

Thibaut Courtois acknowledged Real Madrid were left "bugged" by their inability to put Chelsea to the sword in their Champions League victory.

Los Blancos notched a 2-0 victory over the Blues in the first leg of their quarter-final clash at the Santiago Bernabeu, with goals for Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.

Yet despite a man advantage for the final third of the game after Ben Chilwell was dismissed for a professional foul on Rodrygo, Madrid failed to make their pressure tell.

Speaking afterwards, former Chelsea goalkeeper Courtois voiced his frustration that his team were unable to inflict more damage ahead of next week's return leg.

"Every time you play a big knockout match, you're left with the sensation that you could have, should have, killed the tie off," he said, as quoted by UEFA.com.

"Chelsea nearly scored right, at the end. This is a good result, but we're bugged by the fact that we didn't score a third or even a fourth goal.

"I hope we don't regret not having added another when we play again next week."

Carlo Ancelotti's hosts were mostly dominant on home turf against Frank Lampard's Blues, who struggled to impose themselves upon the game for long periods.

Yet with Benzema, Luka Modric and Rodrygo among those to spurn chances across the game, Courtois' fear of a comeback in London may not be unfounded.

In his post-match comments to BT Sport, Lampard spoke about looking to channel the "special nights" he enjoyed at Stamford Bridge as a player for the second leg.

Madrid themselves are no stranger to a comeback too though, having defied several poor first-leg performances in last year's Champions League to eventually win the title.

Thibaut Courtois will miss Belgium's friendly against Germany on Tuesday due to an adductor injury.

The Real Madrid goalkeeper withdrew from the Red Devils squad on Sunday after sustaining a minor strain.

Courtois played in the Red Devils' 3-0 victory over Sweden in their opening Euro 2024 Group F qualifying match at Friends Arena on Friday.

The former Chelsea keeper will not face Germany in Cologne, though, after returning to Madrid.

Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping Courtois is fit when Los Blancos return to action against Real Valladolid in LaLiga next Sunday.

Romelu Lukaku's hat-trick ensured Belgium started Domenico Tedesco's reign as head coach with a resounding victory over Sweden in Solna.

Thibaut Courtois vowed to continue fighting but acknowledged Real Madrid's LaLiga title hopes may be over after a dramatic defeat at Barcelona on Sunday.

Franck Kessie scored a last-gasp Clasico winner in a 2-1 win over fierce rivals Madrid at Camp Nou to send Xavi's side 12 points clear at the top heading into the international break.

Carlo Ancelotti's side had taken the lead through Ronald Araujo's ninth-minute own goal, only for Sergi Roberto to deservedly equalise on the stroke of half-time.

Courtois impressed with a fine individual display to keep Los Blancos in the game, though the goalkeeper conceded Madrid's defence of their Spanish crown will likely come to an end.

The Belgium international told LaLiga TV: "We have to be honest. We will continue fighting, but there are four games difference.

"We have the advantage on goals [on head-to-head record], but it is difficult. Nothing is impossible, but... we will have to come here to win in the Copa del Rey [semi-final]."

Kessie's late strike, timed at 91 minutes and two seconds, was the latest LaLiga winning goal Barca have scored in the Clasico since Lionel Messi's finish (91:48) in a 3-2 win in April 2017.

But Courtois believes Xavi's hosts would not have found a way back if Madrid could have withstood the pressure before the interval.

He added: "We played a great game. We both had chances. You go ahead, control and they strike before half-time. That affects us. With 0-1 at half-time, I don't think they would have won.

"In the second half we played well. We didn't have many chances but when they arrived we didn't take advantage of them. We were going for the victory, we left spaces and they scored a goal against us.

"I'm happy to help the team, but we haven't achieved victory. We mustn't give up. I'm sure we can come to win in the Copa del Rey and do well in the Champions League."

While Courtois suggested the LaLiga title was destined for Barcelona, Sergi Roberto refuted that message as he referenced the resilience of Madrid.

"You can never say it. There are many games left and you can never say Madrid are dead," he said. "12 points is a difficult distance to let go, but it depends on us, which is good."

Madrid thought they had snatched a late victory before Kessie's winner, with substitute Marco Asensio seeing an 81st-minute strike ruled out for offside after a lengthy VAR review.

That late drama made the victory even sweeter, according to Roberto, who added: "We came back from a goal by Asensio that we hadn't realised was offside.

"Then we scored and it tastes better winning like that, at the last minute."

Questions may have been raised by some after Sergi Roberto was preferred to start over Kessie in midfield, though the Spain international felt he repaid the backing of Xavi with his performance.

"Today it was either Franck or me and in the end we both scored," he continued.

"I am very happy to continue in the club of my life. I have only played in this club. I thank Xavi, the board, the president. It is my way of returning my love. Now we can rest during the break."

Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martinez made it a clean sweep for Argentina in Monday's glitzy ceremony for the Best FIFA Awards in Paris.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi was crowned the Best FIFA Men's Player, Scaloni took the the Best FIFA Men's Coach and Martinez the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper.

The award period spans between the start of the 2021-22 season through to the end of the 2022 World Cup, which saw Argentina end their 36-year wait to win the competition.

Martinez, who plies his club trade for Aston Villa, finished ahead of Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou of Real Madrid and Sevilla respectively in the voting – although Courtois made the cut for the FIFPro Men's World 11.

Scaloni was next to pick up an award after seeing off competition from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti, who won a LaLiga and Champions League double last season.

La Albiceleste have lost just one of their 23 games since the start of last season, with their solitary loss coming in their opening Qatar 2022 group game against Saudi Arabia.

Messi made it three from three for Argentina by claiming the top prize at the ceremony in the French capital, which started with a poignant tribute to Brazil great Pele.

Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Messi's PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe had also been in the running for the award.

Argentina's fans also claimed the FIFA Fan Award.

Their domination on the men's side was not quite matched by European champions England in the women's prizes.

While Argentina dominated the men's side of the voting, it was a clean sweep for England in the women's side of things.

Mary Earps was named the Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper and Sarina Wiegman took the Best FIFA Women's Coach award for a third time.

But Beth Mead was pipped to the Best FIFA Women's Player accolade by Alexia Putellas, last year's winner.

Other winners included Luka Lochoshvili, then of Austrian side Wolfsberger, in the FIFA Fair Play Award category for potentially saving the life of opponent Georg Teigl during a game after the Austria Vienna player fell unconscious mid-match.

Polish amputee footballer Marcin Oleksy won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal for his perfectly executed bicycle kick for Warta Poznan against Stal Rzeszow.

Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema heaped more Champions League pain on Liverpool as Real Madrid produced a storming fightback to secure a stunning 5-2 victory at Anfield.

Darwin Nunez's sublime flick and Mohamed Salah's strike following a Thibaut Courtois howler gave the Reds a two-goal lead only 14 minutes into a dramatic first leg of the round-of-16 tie on Tuesday.

That proved to be a false dawn as the holders stormed back in a rematch of last year's final, Vinicius pulling one back with a classy finish before a bad mistake from Alisson gifted him a second goal in an enthralling first half.

Eder Militao headed Madrid in front early in the second half before Benzema's double gave Carlo Ancelotti's ruthless side a commanding advantage to take back to the Spanish capital for the second leg on March 15.

Nunez produced a moment of magic in the fourth minute to put the hosts in front, meeting Salah's whipped ball with an audacious right-foot flick that flashed past Courtois.

Courtois endured a nightmare 10 minutes later, controlling a back past on his chest before the ball bounced off his knee to present Salah with a simple chance to double Liverpool's lead.

Madrid looked like they did not know what had hit them, but Vinicius halved the deficit in the 21st minute by showing excellent close control in the box before bending a sumptuous right-foot finish into the bottom corner.

The winger was celebrating in front of The Kop again nine minutes before the break after Alisson's terrible attempted pass struck his Brazil team-mate and looped into the net.

Madrid lost David Alaba to injury during a pulsating first half which they would have ended with a lead had Andy Robertson not shown great awareness to deny Rodrygo a tap-in.

Los Blancos were in front two minutes into the second half, though, when an unmarked Militao capitalised on terrible defending to head in the influential Luka Modric's free-kick.

An evening that had started well then took another turn for the worse for Liverpool, with Benzema's shot striking Joe Gomez and giving a wrong-footed Alisson no chance.

Liverpool were opened up again after 67 minutes, Modric and Vinicius combining before Benzema sat Alisson down and demonstrated great composure to finish with his left foot.

Carlo Ancelotti insists Real Madrid will fight to claw back Barcelona in the LaLiga title race.

Los Blancos sit in second place, 11 points behind their Clasico rivals with a game in hand, which they play against Elche at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Fresh from winning the Club World Cup after beating Al Hilal 5-3 in Morocco at the weekend, Ancelotti stated his belief that winning trophies makes you hungrier for more.

"I don't think it's a problem for Real Madrid," he told reporters. "The idea I have is that winning helps you win. When you win you feel things you want to repeat.

"Repeating is motivation for us. We have a disadvantage in LaLiga, but we're going to fight."

Madrid have won just four of their last nine LaLiga games (D2, L3) and were beaten 1-0 at Real Mallorca last time out.

"I don't need to give arguments," Ancelotti added. "Our fans know the professionalism of this team, of these players. They know that we are going to fight every game. I don't think anyone thinks that we are in a 'critical' situation."

The Italian coach was without Thibaut Courtois in Morocco, with the goalkeeper getting injured prior to the Mallorca defeat, but while Courtois will also not be available against Elche, Ancelotti believes he could have the 2022 Yashin Trophy winner back for Saturday's game against Osasuna.

Toni Kroos will also be missing on Wednesday through illness, though Eder Militao and Lucas Vazquez are in line to return.

"Courtois will not be there tomorrow, I hope he will be there for Saturday against Osasuna," he said. "Militao returns, Lucas returns... We have Kroos out, who has a problem."

Ancelotti was positive about Kroos' long-term availability, though, hinting that the German midfielder could sign a new deal with the club.

"I know what is going to happen, but I can't say it. I'm not Kroos," he said. "He hasn't told me, but the feeling is that he's going to renew, but we'll see."

When asked about Karim Benzema doing the same, Ancelotti replied: "I don't know, but I repeat: the legends of Real Madrid must retire at Real Madrid."

He was more certain that Benzema will still be at the club next season, though, despite suggestions that Madrid will be in the market for a new striker at the end of this campaign.

"Well, that Madrid needs a nine is an opinion," he said. "We have Karim, who is not a child, but he will be with us next year. This is not the time to think about next year."

World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez faces competition from Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou to land The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper Award.

Five goalkeepers were originally nominated for the award, which recognises the most outstanding goalkeeping performance in men's football during the period between August 8, 2021 and December 18, 2022, when Martinez helped Argentina win the World Cup for a third time.

Brazil's Premier League duo Alisson and Ederson missed out on the final shortlist following a vote held among the coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists and fans.

Martinez's immense contribution to Argentina's World Cup final win against France put him among the frontrunners for the prize, which will be handed out at a FIFA award ceremony in Paris later this month.

The 30-year-old made a crucial save to deny Randal Kolo Muani an extra-time winner in an epic 3-3 draw, before keeping Kingsley Coman's spot-kick out as Argentina won a penalty shoot-out.

Bounou also impressed in Qatar, helping Morocco become the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals and matching Martinez's tournament-high tally of three clean sheets.

Courtois, meanwhile, made his biggest impact in the club game, helping Real Madrid win a Champions League and LaLiga double last term.

The Belgium international made 59 saves and kept five clean sheets during Los Blancos' successful Champions League run, recording an impressive save percentage of 80.56 per cent across his 13 appearances as they captured their 14th European crown.

Courtois made nine saves in the final as Madrid saw off Liverpool 1-0 in Paris.

Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois have been left out of Real Madrid's squad for Wednesday's Club World Cup semi-final against Al Ahly.

Captain Benzema sustained a leg injury in last week's 2-0 LaLiga win over Valencia and the striker subsequently missed Sunday's shock 1-0 loss at Real Mallorca.

Goalkeeper Courtois suffered a groin strain during the warm-up of that defeat to Mallorca, which leaves Madrid trailing leaders Barcelona by eight points.

Neither player travelled with the Madrid squad to Moroccan capital Rabat on Monday, while Eder Militao, Lucas Vazquez, Ferland Mendy and Eden Hazard were also absent.

Key men Benzema and Courtois still have a chance of being fit for Saturday's final against either Flamengo or Al Hilal, should Madrid overcome Egyptian side Al Ahly.

Los Blancos, who have won the competition four times in the past eight seasons, also have a Champions League last-16 first-leg tie at Liverpool in a fortnight. 

Thibaut Courtois declared Vinicius Jr needs to be protected after he was on the receiving end of a horrendous challenge from Gabriel Paulista on Thursday.

The Brazilian defender kicked out at his compatriot, who had doubled Real Madrid's lead against Valencia to mark his 200th club appearance in style.

Los Blancos emerged 2-0 victors at Santiago Bernabeu to edge closer to leaders Barcelona, yet it was the challenge on Vinicius that left the biggest impression.

Courtois questioned why Vinicius was subject to such treatment, but praised the referee for taking the appropriate action.

"I don't know why he was kicked in that way, we need to protect him," he told LaLigaTV.

"He's a player who dribbles a lot, tries to go past defenders and defenders don't like it. It's the way he is as a player.

"We need him to be that way, we need him to be like that against defenders.

"He receives a lot of kicks and tonight I'm just happy the referee acted and had the bravery to give the red card. The ball is not there, there's no intent to get the ball.

"Even if it was one of us had made that challenge then I would have said yes, it has to be a red card."

Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe may have faced off against one another in the World Cup final in Qatar, but they line up in the same XI in FIFA 23's Team of the Year.

While Mbappe scored a hat-trick in the tournament's showpiece match, it was Messi's Argentina who lifted the World Cup for a third time with a penalty shoot-out victory following a 3-3 draw after extra-time.

The Paris Saint-Germain team-mates have both made FIFA 23's Team of the Year, though, with the selections made from over 10 million votes from fans.

Despite Argentina's World Cup win, Messi is the only player from Lionel Scaloni's team to be included, with Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema completing the front three after scoring 44 goals in 46 matches in the 2021-22 season to help Real Madrid to a LaLiga title and Champions League win.

Kevin De Bruyne finished third in the Ballon d'Or rankings and is part of the midfield, alongside the evergreen Madrid star Luka Modric and Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham, with the latter playing a key role for England at the World Cup at the age of just 19.

The Madrid theme running through the line-up continues at the back, with Thibaut Courtois between in goal and Eder Militao at the heart of the defence.

Virgil van Dijk joins Militao, while Theo Hernandez and Achraf Hakimi, who enjoyed excellent World Cups with France and Morocco respectively, fill the full-back roles.

Cristiano Ronaldo's move to join Al Nassr is proof of Saudi Arabia's ambition to improve as a football nation, says Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo had his contract with Manchester United terminated by mutual consent shortly before his country's World Cup opener, leaving him free to make a lucrative move to the Saudi Pro League.

The transfer marks the end of an illustrious career for Ronaldo in Europe, where he lifted the Champions League on five occasions and won the Ballon D'Or on five occasions.

With Ronaldo having reportedly attracted the interest of clubs in Europe and MLS, Courtois believes the addition is a statement of intent from Saudi Arabian football.

"The transfer of Cristiano makes it clear that the country wants to improve in sports," Courtois told reporters.

"Cristiano choosing to come here is his decision, but it shows that Arabia wants to improve. They've brought him in to win the league."

Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti had a similar view of the deal, saying: "Cristiano has been a fantastic signing. We wish him well. He's a legend of our club, like [Gareth] Bale, who retired yesterday. They remain in the hearts of all Madridistas."

Madrid are in Saudi Arabia for the Supercopa de Espana, where they face Valencia in the semi-finals on Wednesday, and Ancelotti wants to use the competition as a benchmark for success in the remainder of the campaign.

"Titles are always important for this club. Last year gave us a lot of confidence for that season. Hopefully the same thing will happen this year," he added.

"We have to fight for all the titles. We have one very close to try to win it. The goal is the Super Cup, for now."

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