Days before Champions League final are to enjoy, says Ancelotti

Published May 28, 2024
REAL MADRID’S Eduardo Camavinga (second L) and Jude Bellingham in action during a training session at the Ciudad Real Madrid in Valdebebas on Monday.—Reuters
REAL MADRID’S Eduardo Camavinga (second L) and Jude Bellingham in action during a training session at the Ciudad Real Madrid in Valdebebas on Monday.—Reuters

MADRID: The best advice Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti can give his players as they prepare to face Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final is to enjoy the moment, he said on Monday.

Heading into his eighth Champions League final, his sixth as a manager and third with Real who are bidding for a record-extending 15th European crown and sixth in 10 years, the 64-year-old Ancelotti believes his players have the experience to cope with the emotions.

“It is a week to enjoy. The challenge, the opponent... We’re going to enjoy it until Friday. Reaching a final is always a success,” the Italian told a news conference on Monday.

“We have a lot of confidence. As for being favourites, we don’t think about that. We have to play against a team that has done very well in eliminating PSG... Atletico Madrid. They have shown commitment and attitude.”

Known for his calmness and tactical acumen, Ancelotti is one of the most successful coaches in the world, the first manager to win titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues.

When he was lured back to Madrid for a second spell in 2021 following the departure Zinedine Zidane, he knew his only mission was to increase Real’s trophy haul.

Having won the Champions League twice as AC Milan manager and with Real in 2014, the Spaniards’ “Decima” (10th) European crown, before being sacked 12 months later, Ancelotti led the Spanish giants to their 14th title in 2022.

They knocked out Chelsea, Paris St Germain and Manchester City to reach the final in Paris where they beat Liverpool 1-0.

After securing the La Liga title with four games to spare, Ancelotti has been able to rest players.

“The build-up to the big game is always the same, the excitement to be a protagonist in the most important match of the season,” Ancelotti said.

“This is my ninth final if I count those as a player. The three as a player and the sixth as a coach. It’s always the same week: happiness and then worry. The fear will come, but before it does, I’m going to enjoy it.

“The cold sweat comes on Saturday afternoon. It’s quite normal, it comes every match and I have experience. I have a lot of confidence in my team. They are in Champions League mode.”

Ancelotti kept his cards close to his chest over who will be Real’s goalkeeper at Wembley.

Thibaut Courtois has started four games since returning from a serious knee injury but Andriy Lunin was Real’s hero when they beat Manchester City on penalties to reach the semis.

“Both deserve to play in the final. Lunin has done spectacularly and Courtois, we all know the quality he has,” Ancelotti said.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2024

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