Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has heaped praise on rivals Atletico ahead of the second Madrid derby of the season.
Real host Atletico Madrid in the Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg tomorrow at the Bernabeu, with Ancelotti fully aware of the threats they possess.
“Atletico are perfectly organised on defence and are very good at using the break,” he told the press, as reported on the Real Madrid website. “They have kept the same quality in their organisation but have even more confidence. They’re very solid, compact and play well on the counter-attack.”
These characteristics have helped send Atletico top of La Liga, three points clear of both Real, and Barcelona.
Diego Simeone has received most of the plaudits for their rise, with his ability to seemingly take the pressure off his team often mentioned.
Ancelotti commented: “Everything is going well for him this season. It’s normal to say this, to take the pressure off a team that no one had down as favourites at the beginning of the season.”
Ancelotti also revealed some of his plans for the game. “Arbeloa and Coentrao will start,” he said.
So too will Cristiano Ronaldo, apparently, despite not yet having his red card rescinded for an apparent scratch on the face of Athletic Bilbao’s Carlos Gurpegi on Sunday.
Despite this, the Italian was confident he would play. “I don’t think we’ll have to wait for the committee. His sanction won’t be serious and he’ll be on tomorrow’s line-up. He’ll start.”
And Madrid will certainly hope he does. The world player of the year has yet again been in irresistible form this season, scoring 22 goals in La Liga, and will be the spearhead of their attack, which could also include the world’s most expensive player, Gareth Bale.
“Bale is available. He’s recovered well and has done well every day that he’s trained with the team,” Ancelotti said. The former Tottenham forward has yet to shine in Spain, though he has been plagued with little niggles. The coach is sure Bale will excel next year though:
“He’ll be much better next year since he'll have a full pre-season and will have adapted to Spanish football.”
As for tomorrow, Los Blancos will be hoping for a better result than the league fixture between the two sides back in September, when Simeone’s men triumphed thanks to a solitary Diego Costa goal.
Ancelotti thinks “keeping a clean sheet will be very important,” and it may be the case that, due to Atletico’s stunning home form, Real may have to take a lead to the Vicente Calderon, to have any chance of reaching the final.
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