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Ancelotti hopeful over Ronaldo ban

Carlo Ancelotti has stuck to Real Madrid's line that Spain's sporting authorities should free Cristiano Ronaldo to play in Saturday's La Liga clash at home to Elche at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Cristiano Ronaldo was given his marching orders after a second-half scuffle.
Cristiano Ronaldo was given his marching orders after a second-half scuffle.

Rigg: Bale pep talk

Ronaldo has already served two games of the three-match suspension imposed for his sending off at Athletic Bilbao, with an initial appeal to La Liga's discipline committee having been rejected and a further appeal to Spain's "Sports Council" seen mostly as symbolic as the slow-moving government body does not usually rule on such relatively small matters.

While most observers believe that Jese Rodriguez and Gareth Bale will both again start on the wings in the 4 p.m. local time kickoff against Elche, the Italian coach nevertheless told reporters at his pregame news conference that he was hopeful Ronaldo would be made available to play at the last minute.

"It does not seem logical to me that we have to wait so long," Ancelotti said. "We made our appeal with sufficient time, but this is 'bureaucracy time' and we cannot do anything else but wait.

"Tomorrow the team talk is at 2 p.m. and I hope to know the decision beforehand. I am convinced that Cristiano will play, because for what happened at San Mames it is incredible to me that they would suspend him for three games."

In other team news, Luka Modric is suspended, so Ancelotti confirmed Asier Illarramendi is set to come into midfield. Raphael Varane will start at centre-back, ensuring Sergio Ramos will not get a booking which would rule him out of next weekend's crunch La Liga game at Atletico Madrid.

Other changes to the lineup will be at a minimum, even with Madrid having a Champions League last-16 first leg at Schalke 04 next Wednesday. A win would put Madrid temporarily three points top of the Primera Division standings, in a weekend which sees fellow joint-leaders Barcelona and Atletico face tricky games at Real Sociedad and Osasuna respectively.

Ancelotti would not be drawn on other teams' chances, but did say he wanted to ensure his team won and put the pressure on their title rivals.

"I do not know what will happen," he said. "We are focused on our work which is to win and pick up the three points. Elche are a team who can create problems for us, so we must be concentrated and do the maximum to win."

Asked about Friday's lead story in Marca which claimed that Madrid had made contact with Atletico's on-loan Chelsea keeper Thibaut Courtois with a view to bringing him to the Bernabeu, Ancelotti said Madrid were strong in that position with Iker Casillas and Diego Lopez.

"No, no," he said. "I believe we have two very good goalkeepers. We do not need another, it is a position where we are well covered, although Courtois is a great keeper."

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