With Real Madrid needing a point to secure qualification for the Champions League knockout stages, Carlo Ancelotti will be looking to ensure his men do so when they take on the Bianconeri on their own home turf tomorrow evening.
The former Juventus boss certainly has experience of success in the competition having lifted the title a total of four times as player and manager, but he believes it will be difficult to overcome a team who always play with as much energy and desire to win as Antonio Conte’s men.
Juventus were narrowly defeated when the teams met at the Bernabeu a fortnight ago, but in Real Madrid’s pre-match press conference this afternoon the 54-year-old Italian pointed out that the stakes are different this time around.
Speaking at Juventus Stadium, he said: “I think it will be an interesting match. We know that Juve will play with plenty of intensity, at a high tempo, and we will need to be at our best to match them.
"It’s true that Juventus have more to gain in the group than us, but it’s also an important game as far as we’re concerned because it’s an opportunity for us to seal qualification. The quicker it arrives, the better.”
His side have been scoring freely in La Liga of late, approaching tomorrow’s fixture following 7-3 and 3-2 wins against Sevilla and Rayo Vallecano respectively, but he noted that if Los Blancos are to challenge Juventus they will have to achieve a greater balance.
“We’re attacking very well at the moment - we’ve netted 42 times in 15 games - but we’re conceding too many goals, that’s the problem. It’s true that I’m not happy with the defence but don’t forget that we have scored an average of three goals per game.”
When questioned if the injury to the ever-reliable Xabi Alonso has been the root of their defensive issues, Ancelotti replied: “No, I don’t think so, he’s important for us but I don’t consider it to be down to one single player. Players like Illarramendi who have played lots of games in his place have done the defensive job very well. It’s a collective problem that needs solving as a team.”
Key to the tactician’s strategy of conquering the Bianconeri has been a recent rotation policy, a decision he took the opportunity to explain: “I don’t think the defensive problems have been caused by these changes. It gives us the opportunity to have players in a better physical condition.”
Ancelotti also praised his adversary tomorrow night, a man who was also the captain of the Juventus side he managed between 1999 and 2001: Antonio Conte.
“Conte has done an extraordinary job, because he has worked and is still working in an environment that he’s fully familiar with. He’s done as much as anybody could have imagined in these three years, winning two Scudetto titles and also constructing a very competitive team, thanks also to the help of the club.”
Also speaking was Raphael Varane, who insisted that Real are still as keen as ever to win despite having laid strong foundations for their passage into the knockout rounds: “We only need a point to qualify, but we want the victory, the three points and top spot in the group.”
The young French international pointed out that the task they face is made more challenging by the intimidating atmosphere of Juventus Stadium, which Los Blancos will facing for the very first time.
“Juve need a victory and they’ll play to a quick tempo, giving all they’ve got. They’ll have lots of fans behind them and it will be a fiery atmosphere, so we’ll have to respond to their intensity.”
When asked about his team-mates in the Real back line, he commented: “I’m comfortable with either Pepe or Sergio Ramos, they’re different but both strong and it doesn’t bother me who I play with because I’m happy alongside either.”
The 20-year-old concluded with an insight into former Juve hero Zinedine Zidane’s current role as Real Madrid assistant manager: “Zizou speaks with us all individually, he gives us advice and uses his experience to help us. He brings a sense of serenity to the group.”