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Carlo Ancelotti’s press conference ahead of Bilbao trip




Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti appeared before the media on Friday for the first pre-match press conference of the 2023/2024 season.

The press conference followed his side’s last training session before the league opener, and there were several topics to talk about.

The Italian answered questions on the injury to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, his potential replacement, Arda Guler’s injury and more.

Reak Madrid travel to the Basque Country on Saturday to face Athletic Club, the first clash of the season. Los Blancos have a tough task ahead and to defend their undefeated streak in the first game of each league season for the past fifteen years.

Firstly, the coach answered questions on Courtois’ injury: “Yesterday wasn’t a good day for us mentally. We had an injury to a key player, but that happens in football. I want to wish Courtois a speedy recovery and I’m going to put my faith in Lunin, who’s a top goalkeeper.”

“He [Lunin] did really well in the pre-season because he’s a great player and he’s talented. He lacks the experience but now he’ll take everything one game at a time.”

“As a group, we’re extremely saddened by what has happened. This kind of situation will continue to happen and for this reason we have a very large squad.”

Asked about the vacant number nine shirt which has never been unused going into a season in the club’s history, the veteran manager said: “I don’t think anyone will take number 9 because I’m satisfied with this squad and I’m really excited about it.

“I’ve seen some great things in the pre-season and all the players seem very upbeat, very enthusiastic and are working very well. They’re very committed. We have the belief and the desire to compete and fight all season long.”

Ancelotti on the new system: “We’re going to play with the same desire and motivation. All the players are upbeat and motivated. They’re working well and are committed. We’re going to fight and compete all season long, and we have a large squad to manage different systems.”

“In pre-season, we played with a diamond formation and it worked really well in the first two games. I’m not going to play a single system this season because we can play a 4-3-3 with a centre forward or a 4-2-3-1. I’m not committed to just one system.”

“I’m relaxed about Lunin. Now we have to think until 31 August. We’ve got very young and promising goalkeepers like Cañizares and Fran. We’ll think about it in the next few days. Fran is 17 years old and if we sign a new goalkeeper it is for numbers, but I have faith in Lunin.”

“In the next few days, we’ll think about whether to add another goalkeeper to the squad. We’ll stick with Lunin because we have faith in him.”

“We’re sad that a teammate has to miss out for a while, but we have to look forward. At the time of the injury we all thought about putting our faith in Lunin.”

“My type of goalkeeper is one who saves with his hands. That’s what I ask of all the goalkeepers I’ve had. They have to be good with their hands. The forwards have to be good with their feet, they have to be clinical.”

“The problem we had in pre-season was in defence. Offensively, we scored goals and created a lot of chances in the four games. We lacked sharpness and that’s normal because the forwards weren’t fresh enough to be clinical enough.”

“Up front we have a lot of options and two players have joined the team who will contribute. Joselu, who is very good in the box and can break free from his marker, and Brahim can provide us with solutions between the lines.”

“The defensive aspect is what worries me less because it’s a problem of teamwork, sacrifice and concentration, not quality. This week, we’ve worked on it and we’ve tweaked our pressing to be able to handle it.”

“I forced the team to press high and we lost a bit of balance. We’ll assess the work we’ve done better tomorrow.”

Ancelotti spoke in their meeting with the referees: “It was a positive meeting after the new rules, there aren’t many, were explained to us. The added time was explained to us. Now there is one minute more for every goal scored.”

“We discussed this, and there will probably be more added time in the matches, so we have to get used to that. We also talked about the issue of racism. There’s a very clear protocol. The referees overused the VAR and we all agree, referees as well as coaches, that it has to be used less.”

“Another thing we discussed was the atmosphere in the stadiums because this type of situation in Spain is more heated than in other places. In these environments, there are nerves in the dugouts, we coaches have to calm down and the referees should not have to get involved in the fight.”

“They are judges and to make decisions they have to be calm. It’s better for a referee not to get involved in the protest or argument. Last year, very young referees were brought in who lack experience and may make more mistakes in this type of atmosphere.”

“The aim of this collective is to protect the players and the image of football. We have to work together on this, but the referee is the judge.”

“Vini is doing very well because he’s in top condition. He’s been working hard during the holidays and he’s looking forward to playing. He’ll do well this season.”

“The racism protocol is clear. If there are insults on the pitch, the referee has to stop the match. Hopefully, it won’t happen, but it may.”

Regarding new signing Jude Bellingham, the coach had positive words: “He excels at bursting into the box with and without the ball. He can get to the opponent’s area early and being further forward in his position damages the opponent. He’s an extraordinary player. He can play as an inside player, but he’s very dangerous as a playmaker.”

On Arda Güler: “He’s going to have surgery and it’s going to be a fairly short recovery time because he has a small problem. It’s difficult for me to go into the details because of the player’s privacy.”

Lastly, the coach spoke about the evolution of the two star men upfront Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo: “They have to keep progressing because they’re two players who have done really well and have done so consistently.”

“The team has a lot of options because there are players who can score goals like Vinicius, Rodrygo, Joselu, Valverde, Kroos, and also defenders from set-pieces like Militão and Rüdiger. We’ve got a lot of options to score goals.”



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