Ronaldo returns for Copa clash
Carlo Ancelotti has confirmed that Cristiano Ronaldo will be back in the Real Madrid team for Tuesday's Copa del Rey semifinal second leg at Atletico Madrid.
And Ancelotti was quick to stress that he did not believe the tie was already over after his side took a 3-0 lead in the first leg.
They outbattled and outplayed injury-hit Atletico in last week's meeting at the Bernabeu, with goals from Pepe, Jese Rodriguez and Angel Di Maria their reward for a resolute defensive display.
Because Ronaldo's three-game suspension does not include Copa games, Ancelotti told a news conference on Monday that he will return on the left wing and suggested Madrid were still looking to get the remaining two matches of the punishment lifted by appealing to the government-run Sports Council.
"Cristiano likes to play all the games," the coach added. "I do not think he has more hunger for this game than any other. We hope our appeal is good and he can play the upcoming games in La Liga."
Ancelotti told reporters he wanted his players to approach the second leg with the same attitude they had shown in the first.
"We have an important advantage, but to avoid problems we need to show the same attitude and intensity as in the first leg," he said.
"A really important moment of the season is arriving. This last period was important for us, to catch up with Atletico and Barca. We want to play this competition the same as all the others. Our aim is to play the final, and we will do our best tomorrow."
TV replays showed Madrid's Pepe and Alvaro Arbeloa targeting Atletico's top scorer Diego Costa with some strong challenges in the first game, but Ancelotti said he did not feel his side had been lucky not to be punished by the referee.
"Games between teams from the same city are always more intense, more pressurised than other games," he said. "So there can be some words exchanged on pitch -- but we are preparing for a difficult game, with intensity, and we will try and do same as in first leg.
"Some teams can have more luck, other teams can have less luck [with referees]. It is just that."
With Ronaldo absent for the 4-2 win over Villarreal on Saturday, Gareth Bale and home-grown youngster Jese Rodriguez scored and impressed, and Ancelotti -- while not giving away who he planned to play against Atletico -- said he expected both to feature heavily in the coming games.
“Jese is a very important player for the squad, as is Bale, as is Ronaldo, as is [Karim] Benzema,” he said. “It is good fortune for a coach that the season has lots of games. That helps us sort out such problems with the players.”
Left-backs Marcelo and Fabio Coentrao were both substituted early against Villarreal with back and thigh problems respectively, but were back in training on Monday.
Raphael Varane is set for his first start since Nov. 9, with the French youngster likely to replace either Sergio Ramos or Pepe, one of whom will be rested, in central defence.