Carlo Ancelotti says Real Madrid can make an important statement in the Liga race by beating Granada at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu to go top of the table.
Madrid are currently third, a point behind joint leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid who both play on Sunday. Therefore, a win for Ancelotti’s men will see them go to bed on Saturday night two points clear at the head of the Primera Division standings.
Given they were six points adrift of the lead just a few weeks ago, the Blancos coach said this showed his side had the momentum, but he still warned the players and fans not to get too carried away with such a positive state of affairs.
“This gives us a chance to be leader, even if it could be for just one night,” Ancelotti said. “But we were six points behind. So this could be an important game for us, for the season. We have a lot of games at the moment, and are doing very well, but we must be careful as any game can be dangerous. We must prepare well.”
Such good form has been down to a watertight Madrid backline which can set a new club record of seven consecutive clean sheets in Saturday’s game.
Ancelotti said such defensive strength was down to hard work and good organisation throughout the team, while he showed his relaxed state of mind by joking about his own contribution to the good run.
“This is collective -- it shows that the team are working well,” he said. “They have good balance, and work to get the ball back when it is lost. The team is playing more naturally now than at the start of the season. They have found more defensive solidity, while not blocking the danger up front. There are lots of reasons when a team is playing well. You could also say that the coach is doing good work!”
Madrid have no new injury concerns for the game, with Xabi Alonso expected to come back into midfield after being rested for Tuesday’s Copa del Rey 1-0 quarterfinal first-leg win at Espanyol. Other minimal changes should see Diego Lopez back in goal, and Dani Carvajal replacing Alvaro Arbeloa at right-back.
Angel Di Maria is likely to continue as one of the midfielders alongside Alonso in a 4-3-3 formation, and Ancelotti said he did not expect home fans to be worried about the Argentina international’s last Bernabeu appearance -- when he grabbed his crotch in an apparent gesture to supporters who had whistled his below-par performance.
“When a player is playing well the fans applaud him,” he said. “When he is playing poorly then he gets whistled, and the coach substitutes him. Tomorrow the fans will help the team, as always.”
While the Madrid camp look content and happy with how the season is progressing, title rivals Barcelona are in turmoil, with president Sandro Rosell surprisingly resigning on Thursday amid the ongoing court investigation into the controversial signing of Neymar last summer.
“I have seen it, I can only say we must respect any decisions made at any club, also Barcelona’s,” Ancelotti said. “I do not think about whether this will affect Barca’s squad or not. I only focus on my own squad. Barca are a great team. We must battle with them until the end of the year, until the last game.”