Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti believes today’s El Clasico will not be the determining factor as to who will finish on top of La Liga at the end of the season.
However, Ancelotti says the attitude of the players in the dressing room has been very serious during the build-up of the showdown against Barcelona.
“[El Clasico] won’t be as decisive as the Champions League tie against Atletico,” Ancelotti responded when asked whether or not today’s match would be a title deciding event.
“The atmosphere in the dressing room is different because this is a special game. We are playing a great side at an important moment of the season. We’re prepared for it in a special way for that reason. The players are calm and confident and ready to put in the best game possible.”
Earlier this week it was learned team captain Iker Casillas and vice-captain Sergio Ramos had order the squad to close ranks leading up to the match against Barcelona. The veteran players believed it was best for the team to refrain from commenting to the press after being heavily criticized by their home supporters and the media in recent weeks.
Ancelotti has been working hard behind the scenes in an effort to organize his side in the best way possible in order to stifle Barcelona’s high-flying attack – specifically Lionel Messi.
The manager will be utilizing a number of players to corral the four-time Ballon d’Or winner with the hopes of limiting his production on Sunday.
“Messi is in great form at the moment – like all of Barca’s players, but Messi specifically,” Ancelotti said.
“We will need to put in the best game possible in defense and in attack, show personality and impose our style of play.”
Ancelotti was then asked about the underwhelming performances of star man Cristiano Ronaldo over the past few months, as well as the criticism from fans and the media of fellow front man Gareth Bale.
Ronaldo’s production has decreased significantly since winning his third Ballon d’Or award. While Bale’s defensive efforts have been the subject of scrutiny in recent weeks, with many believing the forward should take up a deeper role against Barcelona in order to throw more bodies in front of their attack.
“Maybe [Ronaldo] hasn’t been at his best recently but he saved us in the Champions League,” Ancelotti said.
In regards to Bale, the manager responded: “No single player has more responsibility than the rest. We’ll attack with eleven and defend with eleven. [Bale] won’t switch position; he’s never placed in central midfield.”
When asked if his side were going to hold out for a draw, Ancelotti concluded: “I’ve never settled for a draw in my career; we’ll be going out to win.”
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