Carlo Ancelotti has told Canal Plus that Real Madrid’s recent Copa del Rey elimination of Atletico Madrid has boosted his side’s confidence ahead of Sunday’s top-of-the-table Primera Division derbi at the Estadio Vicente Calderon.
Los Blancos were unbeaten against Atletico since 1999 until Los Colchoneros shocked them in the Copa final with a 2-1 win at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in May last year, and were also beaten at home 1-0 by their neighbours in La Liga in September.
However, Ancelotti’s side were much stronger over the two recent Copa ties and won out easy 5-0 winners to advance to April’s final against Barcelona -- and the Italian coach says these results have restored confidence to the Madrid ranks.
“The last games have given us a lot more confidence,” he said. “In the Liga game they caused us many, many problems, losing the derbi at home. These games we played in the Copa have given us more confidence.”
Ancelotti said he respected the way Atletico played, saying the team was similar to how Los Colchoneros coach Diego Simeone played during his playing career.
“It is not a surprise that Atletico are at this level,” he said. “They are perfect to play in any competition, any league. They are very well balanced. They know their limits very well.
“They are fantastically solid. They use their strengths: the counter-attack, set-plays… they are efficient. Atletico is like Simeone was as a player. They play to the maximum, play together, give their all.”
Madrid’s recent outstanding results, and Atletico’s dip in form, have seen Ancelotti’s side open up a three-point lead at the top the league, leading Atletico midfielder Koke to tell Marca that his side could not afford to lose on Sunday.
“Each game is different,” the Spain international said. “The Copa final was a final; the game in La Liga went well for us, and not so well for them. They arrived better at the semifinals and we must congratulate them. This Liga game will be different, both teams have a lot on the line.
“There are many games left, but it is true they could go six points ahead. We have always said it, we are going to go from game to game. We will go into the game as if it was a final, as we always do. They are very good in defence and in attack they have great individuals. But nobody is invincible.”
Madrid did look close to unbeatable when smashing Schalke 6-1 in the Champions League on Wednesday night, but Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois told AS that his side was unlikely to be as tactically naive as the Germans.
“We are different than Schalke,” Courtois said. “They played very open against Madrid. They left spaces and Madrid have a lot of speed to take advantage of them. We know we are going into a very difficult game given their current form.”
The Belgium international said that he and his teammates had already moved on from the Copa defeats.
“You do not like to lose a derbi, but it happened and that’s that,” he said. “Football is the present. The important thing is what is coming. A Liga game is played in a different way than the Copa, but we will go into it like a final.”
Ancelotti is unlikely to make too many changes to the team that won so handsomely in midweek, but Alvaro Arbeloa and Raphael Varane may come in to replace Dani Carvajal and Pepe in defence.
Jese Rodriguez is likely to be a substitute again, given Gareth Bale’s brace at the Veltins arena.
Simeone is expected to leave out-of-form duo Diego Ribas and David Villa on the bench, with the more combative Raul Garcia starting in attack alongside Diego Costa.
Koke, Arda Turan and Miranda, who were rested as Atletico lost 3-0 at Osasuna last weekend, will all come back into the starting XI.