Bale and Ronaldo to share free kicks
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo will now share free kick duties after the Wales international again showed his dead-ball credentials with a goal in Saturday’s 5-0 Primera Division win at Real Betis.
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Bale has now scored three of the five direct free kicks he has taken for Madrid following his strike at the weekend. Ronaldo, meanwhile, has also netted three dead-ball attempts from outside the box this term for his club -- but from 25 attempts.
The difference in conversion rates -- 60 percent to 12 percent -- was highlighted this week in the Spanish media, and the Madrid coach was asked at Monday’s post-training news conference if Bale should replace Ronaldo as the team’s primary set-piece taker.
Ancelotti stopped short of admitting such a move, but did suggest that from now on the former Tottenham man would have priority when the angle favoured him.
“No, on the left wing Gareth Bale has more chances -- as he showed against Betis -- and Cristiano has a better chance from the right,” he said. “That is the decision we have taken for them both. Cristiano is stronger with his right, Gareth with his left.”
Ronaldo trained earlier than his teammates on Monday, before heading off to pick up the title of “Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry” from Portuguese president Anibal Cavaco Silva in an official ceremony at the Belem Palace in Lisbon.
Ancelotti said that, even with Madrid’s hectic schedule of games at the moment, he was not currently considering resting the team’s top scorer -- who himself netted a 35-yard scorcher from open play against Betis.
“When I see Cristiano tired I will give him a rest,” Ancelotti said. “But he has no problems with playing. Rotation is necessary when players are tired, we have good communication with the players. They all want to play, but sometimes they will need to rest.”
The Italian suggested he might shuffle his side for Tuesday’s Copa del Rey quarterfinal first leg at Espanyol, with Sergio Ramos a doubt due to a knee problem. Ancelotti did say, though, that he expects his players to show 100 percent focus in the game.
“The team was happy with the last game we played there [a 1-0 win earlier this month] -- we need to repeat it, or if possible improve on it,” Ancelotti said. “They could surprise us, they are a good team, strong and physical. It will be a very intense game, they will want to get an advantage in their home leg. Our objective is the same -- but the tie will be decided at the Bernabeu [in next week’s second leg].”
Ancelotti accepted a reporter’s suggestion that his recent preference for a more solid 4-3-3 formation, with Xabi Alonso flanked by Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria in midfield, was bad news for 30 million summer signing Isco.
“It is a system that gives us more balance, the three are individually very good, and we will keep playing that system for now,” he said. “It is true that creates more difficulties for Isco -- he can play in Di Maria or Modric’s place, but he is not so comfortable there. He can play as a false nine sometimes, taking [Karim] Benzema’s place -- as he did against Osasuna -- he could play there again tomorrow. But we have not forgotten the system [4-2-3-1] with a mediapunta like Isco.”