Real Madrid duo Carlo Ancelotti and James Rodriguez affirm a “quality performance” is required against Juventus tomorrow evening if they are to keep their dream of reaching a second successive Champions League final alive.
Approaching the semi-final second leg 2-1 down, the ex-Bianconeri boss also believes his men, who are bidding to make their 14th final in Europe’s elite competition, must remain “calm and focused” if they are to overcome the task at hand.
Speaking to the media in Madrid, Ancelotti began: “We need to remain calm and focused because we have a burning desire to play in another final. We’ll need to put in a performance with maximum intensity and it’s important we remain alert throughout.
“It’s imperative to be balanced in all areas of the field, especially when going forward, and the midfielders and defenders must maintain stability. These are the types of games where you can’t put a foot wrong and we need to ensure a quality performance."
Despite producing a stirring second-half comeback to draw 2-2 against Valencia on Saturday, Real Madrid’s hopes of a 33rd La Liga title were all but extinguished after Barcelona won earlier on in the day to extend the gap at the top to four points with two games to play.
And following Copa del Rey elimination by arch-rivals Atletico Madrid at the last 16 stage back in January, the Champions League remains the last major silverware Spain’s most successful side can claim with the season now drawing to a close.
“We played very well against both Valencia and Sevilla recently, but lacked focus in the finer details. We need to avoid all distractions tomorrow, and play with a superior intensity.
“It’s an important moment of the season, we’re very close to reaching a second final and making history. We’re hungry to do all we can to win.”
Talk in the pre-match press conference soon turned to team news and in spite of both the returning Karim Benzema and injury free Toni Kroos being named in the 21-man squad, Ancelotti chose to keep his cards close to his chest with regards to tomorrow’s starting line-up.
“Karim’s in good shape, ready and available for selection. He could either start or come off the bench. In any case, Chicharito [Hernandez] gives us depth and attacks the defence well, while Benzema’s link-up play helps the rest of the team.
“The idea that Sergio Ramos could play in midfield is not totally out of the window either.”
The 55-year-old then ended his preview with a rallying cry to his team: “Our first target is to play in the Champions League final. We’re almost there and my pre-match feeling is similar to the one I had before last year’s semi-final.”
Sitting alongside the Italian tactician in today’s news conference was James, one of the stars of the show at last year’s World Cup in Brazil.
And the Colombian, who has enjoyed a stellar first season at the Santiago Bernabeu following his move from Monaco, called on the Los Blancos support to get behind the team, citing that a big atmosphere could be key to turn the tie in their favour.
“The game bears a big significance for us: our dream is to reach the final in Berlin and while we’ll give our all out on the pitch, we’ll also be counting on the fans’ support. We must all remain united, both inside the stadium and those supporting elsewhere."
James also echoed his manager’s sentiments regarding intensity, stating that he and his team-mates should take a leaf out of Juventus’ book for the way they played during last week’s first leg.
He concluded: “Juve played with intensity in the first leg and we committed some errors. We need to score straightaway so that they allow us space in behind. It’ll be a great game tomorrow, and a good test for us that we must win in order to make it to Berlin.
"Vidal and Tevez are important players for Juventus, but we mustn't forget Pirlo. They have a quality side and we can't underestimate them."