Carlo Ancelotti has accused the football authorities of punishing players by jamming the calendar with too many games as the Real Madrid boss faces a hectic end to the season.
Victims of their own success, Madrid must play the Copa del Rey final against Osasuna in May, plus two Champions League semi-finals against Manchester City, and aim to finish as high as possible in La Liga.
They will play every weekend and every mid-week until early June, which poses a challenge for Ancelotti to keep his team fit and healthy.
He does not want to talk about any weakness in his ranks, stressing that Madrid will be able to recover between games, but this is far from a satisfactory situation for the veteran Italian manager.
He said, “The schedule doesn’t make sense. Too crowded, too many games. You have to appreciate a little the health of the players, which is the most important part of football.
“Here everyone thinks about himself: La Liga, federation, UEFA, FIFA. Players do not count anything for them, and this is wrong. Something needs to change, too many games.
“I also heard that we gave too many days off. I looked at the calendar and told myself I was wrong, but no. In four months, since December 30, we had eight days off, not counting the break of the national team. There were only eight of them.”
The former Milan and Chelsea boss added: “Right now the rotation is just about resting the players I consider the most tired and having more players in good physical condition.
“I have to take a few minutes to keep the players in shape for the last part of the season.”
@MrAncelotti: “We must fight for @LaLigaRU to the end and keep going.” pic.twitter.com/EaaCIOLvRP
— Real Madrid FC (@realmadriden) April 21, 2023
He spoke of the need to carefully manage players such as veteran captain Karim Benzema, who was substituted late in the game as Real Madrid completed their quarter-final victory over Chelsea on Tuesday.
“I filmed it in London because when I think the game is over, I want to keep the players and give them a little more rest,” Ancelotti said.
The manager said Benzema is “fine” now and is in contention to start the La Liga home clash against Celta on Saturday.
On the horizon are clashes with Pep Guardiola’s City, a repeat of last year’s Champions League semi-final, which Madrid won with an unusually late comeback in the second leg.
Ancelotti was proud to hear former Barcelona coach Guardiola say that Madrid remains a team that wins the tournament.
“Yes, Madrid is highly respected and that’s a good thing,” Ancelotti said. “And having a coach like Guardiola say that is even better.”
He’s looking forward to an epic battle against a City team that usually played a false nine striker last season but now has Europe’s most predatory striker in Erling Haaland.
“We are teams that can play differently,” Ancelotti said. “I don’t think they’ve completely changed their style, it’s just that they have such a strong striker that the way they attack is a little different from last year. City can easily play a passing game or a possession game.”
As to whether City are the favorites this time around, Ancelotti added: “I don’t know. This is not the topic that I have in my head. We must know that we are very close to the final, that they are a very strong opponent with a very equal score. Let’s see what’s going on.”
— Real Madrid FC (@realmadriden) April 20, 2023
Madrid are 11 points behind leaders Barcelona in La Liga, so their hopes of a successful title defense at this stage look bleak.
City rivals Atlético Madrid could help the Creamy with a win at Camp Nou on Sunday; however, third-placed Atlético are just two points behind Madrid, so what might seem like an advantage if a surprise result happens could also create problems for Ancelotti.
“They will fight until the last moment for second place, which is very important,” Ancelotti said of Atlético. “They are at an important stage and they are playing very well.”
Madrid won’t take Celta lightly, especially with the likes of Spain striker Iago Aspas and much-desired midfielder Gabry Veiga in their ranks.
“Yes, I like him,” Ancelotti said when asked about Veige. “They have quality players like Iago Aspas who are doing very well.”