Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti insists his “best squad in the world” will be able to cope with a host of absentees in Wednesday’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg with Atlético Madrid.
The matchup is finely balance after a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon last week, but Real’s preparations have been dealt a major blow by injuries that have ruled out Gareth Bale, Luka Modric and Karim Benzema, and a suspension for Marcelo. Bale and Modric were both forced off during Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Malaga on Saturday, while Benzema has failed to shake off a knee problem picked up in the first leg. Ancelotti, though, has stressed that he has the resources to cope.
“I have the best squad in the world and it is important to focus on the players who are going to play and not on those who are not playing,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website. “The answer will be to play fresh players, who are enthusiastic, fit, and who can help the squad to play as we did in the first leg. We have to learn to live with injuries. It happened to us in important games last season. This is not going to harm our confidence because the squad is good and is really going to go for it.”
Ancelotti wouldn’t reveal how he would reshuffle his lineup in light of the absentees. However, it looks certain that Fabio Coentrao will replace Marcelo, while Isco will come in for Bale. There are key selections to be made, though, over whether Asier Illarramendi, Lucas Silva or Sami Khedira are reintroduced in midfield and if it will be young Spanish forward Jesé Rodríguez or Mexico striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández up front.
“It could be Jesé or it could be through James' [Rodríguez] position, whether on the right or as a centre-half. James is doing well and will be a great help to us because he is in good form and effective at everything. Chicharito is doing well psychologically, as he demonstrated against Malaga.”
Real Madrid’s problems will only boost the prospects for an Atlético Madrid side that have gone seven matches unbeaten against their local foes since a heartbreaking loss in last season’s Champions League final. Yet manager Diego Simeone has refused to be drawn on the impact Real’s problems would have on Wednesday’s clash at the Bernabeu.
“You're more interested in that and we're more interested in preparing for the game and that Atlético play well,” he said during his pre-match press conference, reports Spanish publication AS. “There will be different players but desire is something else. As far as we go, we won't change a lot. We have an idea, imagining the way our opponents will play, and we want to hurt them.”
In contrast to their opponents, Atlético look to have been given an injury boost ahead of the derby. Striker Mario Mandzukic played through an ankle injury in the first leg and endured an elbow to the face from Sergio Ramos in a fractious encounter. But he has recovered to take part in training and now looks set to partner Antoine Griezmann, who scored his 20th La Liga goal of the season in a 2-1 win at Deportivo La Coruña on Saturday.
Real Madrid (4-3-3)
D: Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao
M: Illarramendi, Kroos, Isco
F: James, Hernández, Ronaldo
Atlético Madrid (4-4-2)
D: Juanfran, Miranda, Godin, Siqueira
M: Turan, Gabi, Tiago, Koke
F: Mandzukic, Griezmann
Kickoff time: 2:45 p.m. EDT
TV channel: Fox Sports 1