Carlo Ancelotti: Gareth Bale still one of Real Madrid's most important players
Carlo Ancelotti has insisted Gareth Bale remains one of Real Madrid's most important players, despite a growing feeling in the local media that the Wales international no longer deserves to start when fit.
Bale is currently sidelined with a muscle problem in his lower back, and has watched on as replacement Isco has starred in a midfield role of late.
Such performances, and also the excellent passing football which has been on show, have led to calls for Bale to be benched even when he has returned to full fitness.
As the questioning at Friday's pre-training news conference again went down those lines, Ancelotti said that the former Tottenham player proved his worth to the team last year with goals in Madrid's Copa del Rey and Champions League final victories.
"Nobody should get angry because Bale deserves to play," Ancelotti said. "He is one of the best players in the world, and one of the most important players in this squad. What has changed [is not Bale's absence] but the attitude of the team without the ball. Now it is easier to attack."
The experienced coach also had short shrift for a reporter who suggested that Cristiano Ronaldo and Madrid teammates claiming most of the important prizes at this week's La Liga 2013-14 awards ceremony was unfair given Atletico Madrid finished as champions.
"It does not surprise me when a Real Madrid player wins an individual prize," Ancelotti said. "I am not surprised about [Sergio] Ramos, [Luka] Modric or Cristiano, who is the best player in the world."
Ancelotti was speaking ahead of Saturday afternoon's La Liga trip to Granada, for which regulars including Ronaldo and Ramos are sure to start having been rested for the midweek 4-1 Copa del Rey last-32 first-leg win at third-tier Cornella.
With Liverpool at the Bernabeu in the Champions League on Tuesday, Ancelotti revealed that Modric and Pepe were doubts for the game at Los Carmenes, while saying he would still pick his strongest available XI.
"The team is not decided yet as we need to check on the condition of Pepe and Modric," Ancelotti said. "We will pick the team without thinking about Tuesday."
One of Germany international Sami Khedira and regular reserve Asier Illarramendi could step in if Modric is unavailable, with both having completed a rare 90 minutes this season against Cornella.
"[Khedira] and Illarra will be important players for us," Ancelotti said. "Khedira played well on Wednesday. Kroos and Modric will not play all season in that position. I believe in all four although they have very different characteristics."
Granada come into the game 14th in the table, having ended a run of four straight defeats with a 1-1 draw at Eibar last time out, and with possibly extra motivation after coach Joaquin Caparros took exception to Friday's Marca cover suggesting he would take a 1-0 defeat by tearing up a copy of the paper at his Friday news conference.
"I understand what Caparros did," Ancelotti added. "He enjoyed it. It can happen, although I have never done that. It will be a difficult game. Caparros' teams are very organised and play well on the counter-attack. We must be careful in this game and impose our quality on the pitch."