Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti says his side’s late 1-0 defeat to Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey could make his side stronger.
Real Madrid and Athletic Club looked destined for extra time in the cup quarter-final on Thursday night. However, an 89th minute Alex Berenguer winner instead saw Ancelotti’s side eliminated at San Mames. Karim Benzema was missing for the match and Madrid used a false nine in his absence. Big-name wingers Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard were both unused substitutes, drawing questions from the media.
But the Real Madrid coach admitted he didn’t feel like the loss would negatively affect his side.
Ancelotti told the Real Madrid official website: “We’re hurting because we want to win every competition we’re involved in. We won the Super Cup, we’re in good shape in another two competitions and I don’t think this defeat will have any adverse consequences.
“The consequence is that this defeat could make us stronger. We knew it was going to be a difficult game and we had players out. Vini Jr. gave it everything he could, they really played hard against him but that’s the way it is.
“I took Kroos off for Camavinga due to fatigue, the Vini Jr. and Isco switch was down to fatigue… I had more changes and I was planning to use them in extra-time. Unfortunately, they scored in the last minute and I didn’t get time to put other guys on.”
Ancelotti defends not using Hazard and Bale
Despite the absence of Karim Benzema, Ancelotti decided not to use two star wingers available from the bench.
Both Gareth Bale and Eden Hazard were left to kick their heels in the Copa del Rey defeat.
Ancelotti defended the decision, saying: “I have nothing to say. Why are you talking about Bale, Hazard and Jovic? Why not ask about Ceballos, Carvajal?
“All of the guys who don’t play, it must because they’re being punished, right? It can’t be just those three. There’s nothing in it.
“I made decisions which didn’t involve those players but if we’re being honest you have to discuss Ceballos, who didn’t play a single minute, and those who are on the bench like Vallejo, who have the same quality”.
False nine backfires on Real Madrid
Real Madrid’s decision to use Marco Asensio as a false nine against Athletic Club appeared to backfire. Without Karim Benzema, Carlo Ancelotti could have called upon Luka Jovic instead.
“We didn’t play with an out-and-out centre-forward,” Ancelotti explained. “Nobody has Karim’s quality, he really helps us in possession and Asensio could have given us that along with Rodrygo and Isco.
“We didn’t change our plan, we tried to play out from the back, but they pressed well and this made it more difficult for us to create clear chances. It didn’t work out because Athletic pressed very high and in that respect they made it more difficult. That was so important in terms of how the game panned out”.