Carlo Ancelotti has denied that Real Madrid are working on a plan to deal with Erling Haaland in Tuesday’s Champions League semifinal first leg, saying that focusing on one player would underestimate a “complete” Manchester City team.
Since both clubs met in last year’s semifinal — which Madrid won 6-5 on aggregate, including a dramatic 3-1 comeback at the Bernabeu — City have added Haaland, who has scored 51 goals this season, to their squad.
“Haaland is a very dangerous player,” Ancelotti said in his prematch news conference on Monday. “He’s an obvious danger. But only talking about Haaland means not talking about a complete team that plays well, that attacks, that has ideas.
“We aren’t planning how to play Haaland, but rather to play a team that looks unstoppable. I think we can have a chance to play an even, competitive game, and we can win.”
Ancelotti said he didn’t view the addition of Haaland as requiring a radical shift in City’s style.
“What I can say is they’re a more complete team,” Ancelotti said. “They might play a bit more direct. They use more long balls because they have a tall forward [Haaland] and they have [Kevin] De Bruyne behind him. In a lot of games they’ve taken advantage of that, playing a long ball and winning the second ball. But that doesn’t mean the team has changed its style.”
Madrid have a formidable record against Premier League teams in recent years, eliminating Liverpool and Chelsea in the Champions League this season after knocking out Chelsea, City and Liverpool on their way to lifting the trophy last campaign.
Midfielder Toni Kroos said he wasn’t surprised that despite their recent record, many people view the Premier League champions as favourites.
“I think it was almost the same a year ago,” Kroos said. “Almost nobody expected us to win the Champions League, or to win that semifinal, and we did it.
“A few people said the same thing a year ago. It doesn’t affect us, and it doesn’t motivate us more. It’s impossible to be more motivated than we already are.”
Kroos also defended teammate Vinicius Junior, who has faced criticism for frequent clashes with opponents and referees this season, with his latest yellow card coming in the Copa del Rey final.
“He’s very young,” Kroos said. “And he’s player who’s made the difference for us this season. He’s scored what, 22 goals? He’s played well all season, he’s never injured. Ask the defenders who play against him, it must be tough.
“He has to learn. If he’s calm, and keeps a cool head, he’s playing incredibly. It’s normal, he’s provoked sometimes and referees’ decisions don’t help, but he has to live with this for the next 10-15 years. He has to be calm in those moments and keep playing his game.”
Ancelotti confirmed that midfielder Luka Modric — who has recovered from a thigh injury — would start against City.
“”Yes, he can play without any problems,” Ancelotti said. “If Luka Modric feels fine, he plays, so tomorrow he’ll play.”
‘Unstoppable’ Man City are more than Haaland – Ancelotti