Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has hailed his current squad as the “most complete” he has ever worked with ahead of their Champions League return leg with Schalke that will surely be no more than a formality.
The Spanish giants hammered Schalke 6-1 in Gelsenkirchen in the first leg of their last-16 tie three weeks ago with Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo each netting a brace. The so-called “BBC” front line has garnered many of the headlines, but former Juventus, Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain coach Ancelotti is impressed with more than just his star trio.
“I’ve managed several squads with a lot of quality and so it’s difficult to make a comparison but this one has a little of everything,” he said, according to Spanish sports daily AS. “It has experience, youth, character, personality... You could say that this is the most complete squad I have ever worked with.”
With such a healthy advantage heading back to the Bernabeu on Tuesday, Madrid could be forgiven for having more than just the one eye on Sunday’s Clasico against La Liga title rivals Barcelona. And, indeed, following on from a hard-fought 1-0 win at Malaga on Saturday, Ancelotti has revealed that he will be making full use of his impressive squad for the visit of the German side.
“We’ll be making a few changes because our last two games required a great physical effort; we’ve also had to travel and hardly had much rest,” he explained. “So this is a good moment for some players to take a rest.”
Benzema is one of the players who will come out of the side from the weekend with the French striker having picked up a thigh injury against Malaga. Madrid remain hopeful that he will return in time for the Clasico. In the meantime, Ancelotti has confirmed that Benzema’s place will be taken by Alvaro Morata, with the rest of the frontline being made up of fellow youngster Jese as well as Ronaldo.
After their first-leg hammering, Schalke coach Jens Keller has explained that he will be taking no chances with players carrying injuries. Instead Keller is intending to use the match in the famed surroundings of the Bernabeu as a further learning curve for his impressive collection of young talent, which includes Julian Draxler and Max Meyer.
“We have a young team and this match can be a good experience,” he said, reports Uefa.com. “We have to do better than in the home game. We must be more compact and not let our opponents grow. We are going to try to do our best. Maybe players with small problems or injuries won't play. I don't have many options, but we will try to play our young players.”
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar who scored a stunning late consolation for Schalke three weeks ago, and midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng are two of the experienced players who could be handed a rest. Keller’s cautious approach with his players is understandable given the rash of injuries already impacting his squad. Eight players are currently ruled out: long-term casualties Dennis Aogo and Marco Hoger, as well as Jefferson Farfan, Jan Kirchoff, Christian Fuchs, Felipe Santana, Atsuto Uchida, and Christian Clemens.
Where to watch: The second leg of the Champions League round-of-16 tie will kick off at 3.45 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by Fox Sports 2, with a live stream available on Fox Soccer 2Go.