Carlo Ancelotti says he might not start Gareth Bale in Real Madrid’s Champions League Group B opener at Galatasaray on Tuesday night.
Bale scored on his first appearance for Madrid in Saturday’s 2-2 La Liga draw at Villarreal, but was withdrawn at the hour mark as he has still to reach match-fitness having missed most of pre-season while his €100 million move from Tottenham dragged on until the end of the transfer window.
The Welsh winger had suffered no new fitness problems during his debut, Ancelotti said, but it made sense to be cautious at this point.
“We must be careful with Bale, who played 60 minutes after a difficult pre-season,” Ancelotti said. “But he had no problems after Villarreal, his condition is not bad, but we must just think a little before putting him on the pitch.”
Iker Casillas is set to make his first Madrid start of the season in Tuesday’s game at the Ali Sami Yen Stadium, even after Diego Lopez’s superb performance against Villarreal, Ancelotti confirmed.
“I have two very good keepers, with a fantastic attitude,” he said. “In my opinion Diego deserves to play in La Liga and Iker, for his professionalism and serious attitude, deserves to play in the Champions League. Casillas has a lot of experience. He looks relaxed to me. He will play a good game tomorrow I think, and nothing more. He has everything to put up with the pressure, he has no problem. If both keepers perform well it will stay the same. Diego in La Liga, Iker in the Champions League.”
Elsewhere in the team Sami Khedira is likely to come into midfield after Asier Illarramendi had a tough debut at Villarreal, while Alvaro Arbeloa has recovered from the knock picked up on international duty with Spain and should start at left-back in place of Nacho Fernandez.
Ancelotti said he hoped his team would defend better as a unit in Turkey than they did at Villarreal on Saturday.
“I am not happy with [our defending], because I believe we have lacked a little balance,” he said. “It is important. I do not believe we will have problems scoring goals as we have fantastic ability. But we need to defend better, at this moment. It is not just a problem with the four at the back, it is about balance, and the midfielders helping more and having a better position on the pitch.”
That quality up front has been assured for five more seasons, with 203 goals in 203 games man Cristiano Ronaldo, 28, signing his improved new contract at Madrid on Sunday. Ancelotti said he did not expect any drop off in the Portuguese attacker’s contribution from here.
“For Madridismo, Cristiano’s new contract is good news,” the Italian said. “He will be playing here for many years to come. It’s a boost for him. He has been among the most important players in the world for many years. Nothing has changed. Before, now and after he has been the same, doing well. I hope his performance is always as it has been in the last years.”
Ancelotti -- about to become the first man to coach six different sides in the Champions League -- said he was additionally excited about the challenge of trying to win the fabled ‘decima’ tenth European Cup trophy at Madrid.
“I said many times that I have a special feeling for his competition,” he said. “It is the most important competition in the world. I am excited as it is my first game with Real Madrid, everyone knows they have a fantastic objective to win Champions League number ten. It will not be easy, but just being involved, for me, is fantastic motivation.”