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The Italian was delighted by his side’s performance against Liverpool as Real Madrid approach the clash on Saturday in imperious form


Carlo Ancelotti says his Real Madrid side are “where they want to be” heading into Saturday’s Clasico showdown with Barcelona.

Madrid were too strong for Liverpool on Wednesday, winning their Champions League encounter 3-0 thanks to a stunning Cristiano Ronaldo strike and a double from Karim Benzema.

With Barca beating Ajax 3-1 24 hours earlier, it means both teams go into the weekend in a positive frame of mind.

Ancelotti told Sky Sports: “I think we are in really great form. We are focused and fit. Barcelona are going into the game in a good position but we are where we want to be and playing well.”

Such was Madrid’s dominance at Anfield that Ancelotti could afford to bring off Ronaldo with Barca in mind.

“I noticed that he’d worked very, very hard in the game and we’d worked hard on the counterattack, and we decided that it was time to give him a rest. We didn’t discuss his substitution beforehand,” said the Italian.

“I didn’t ask him if he wanted to come off. It’s not something that’s possible to do, to ask a player in the middle of the match.”

Madrid are now six points clear at the top of Group B and a win against Liverpool in the return fixture next month would guarantee the defending champions a place in the knockout stages.

Ancelotti added: “This is a very, very important victory, we played great football in a great atmosphere. We played a team who wanted to make it difficult for us but we were able to play our football throughout.

“I am very satisfied. We played with quality and personality. The team has a lot of maturity and confidence.

“We defended well at first by controlling the initial intensity of Liverpool. Then we played with pace, quality and clear ideas.”

The France international netted a first-half brace, while the Ballon d’Or holder continued his superb run of form to bag his 20th goal in 13 appearances this season


Real Madrid ran out comfortable 3-0 winners over Liverpool at Anfield on Wednesday evening, as Cristiano Ronaldo continued his superb run of form.

The Portugal international netted for the 20th time in 13 appearances this season to open the scoring, and subsequently moved within one of former Real stalwart Raul’s Champions League competition record of 71 goals.

While the European champions’ first featured slick passing and a world-class finish, Liverpool were the architects of their own downfall from there as Karim Benzema twice capitalised on slack defending to net a double before half-time.

It was a matter of damage limitation for Liverpool after that,  with the Premier League side playing out a spirited second half without a recognised striker.

Real retained their menace throughout but were able to leave plenty in reserve for Saturday’s mouthwatering El Clasico showdown with arch-rivals Barcelona.

Under-fire forward Mario Balotelli retained the faith of home manager Brendan Rodgers and the enigmatic Italian passed up the chance to play through Raheem Sterling when Isco lost possession in the second minute.

Ronaldo then thundered an early drive into the chest of Simon Mignolet, while there were awkward moments for the Liverpool goalkeeper’s opposite number.

Iker Casillas parried the ball clear when a long-range Steven Gerrard strike dipped awkwardly and the experienced shot-stopper then showed poor handling from a 13th-minute corner.

Casillas and Madrid’s travelling fans had their nerves settled, though, when Ronaldo opened the scoring in superb fashion after 23 minutes.

Having exchanged passes with Benzema, the Ballon d’Or holder charged onto a chipped return ball from James Rodriguez to sweep home on the half-volley.

And Liverpool had a mountain to climb with half an hour played, as Benzema looped a header beyond Mignolet on the end of Toni Kroos’ floated cross.

A rare moment of indecision allowed Glen Johnson to deny Ronaldo five minutes before half-time but woeful defending from the resulting corner sealed Liverpool’s fate.

Pepe knocked down Kroos’ delivery and the ball squirmed beyond Mignolet and flailing Liverpool legs to leave Benzema with a simple tap-in.

The recalled Joe Allen side-footed wide and fellow midfielder Philippe Coutinho clattered a shot against the post from distance, but Liverpool could not grasp a lifeline before half-time.

Balotelli exchanged shirts with Pepe at the interval and it was his last act, as Adam Lallana replaced the former Manchester City man for the start of the second period.

Liverpool attacked in spirited fashion upon the resumption, although a vital challenge from Martin Skrtel to stop a storming run from Isco demonstrated the perils they still faced against a counter-attacking Real.

Skrtel was caught napping by a rampaging Ronaldo in the 62nd minute and Mignolet got behind a firmly struck shot, before denying the same player from close range as Real sliced through the home defence once more.

Sterling kept Casillas involved at the other end and Allen scrambled a shot wide in the 72nd minute before Benzema and Rodriguez combined incisively for the latter to steer wide in front of the Kop.

Three wins from three means Real’s passage from Group B is already virtually assured, while Liverpool must bounce back from consecutive defeats to overhaul second-placed Basel.

The former Reds man, now with Real Madrid, says that a Champions League match at Anfield will be a real test for his side no matter how the hosts’ last game went


Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa says that Liverpool are a team to be taken extremely seriously regardless of their underwhelming form.

The Reds were unconvincing in Sunday’s 3-2 win over QPR but host the Champions League holders in a group game on Wednesday and the former Reds man says that he would be worried even if “they had lost 10-0”.

Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has told team-mates to expect a tough atmosphere at Anfield, having failed to score there during his time at Manchester United.

Arbeloa confirmed to reporters: “I’ve been telling them the same thing but Cristiano has mentioned he always found this the most difficult away ground from his time in the Premier League.

“Many things have changed from the last times the teams met [in 2009] – both clubs have brought in new players – but I think the Anfield atmosphere on a European night will always be the same.

“Even league matches have a special atmosphere here. It is difficult to explain, you just have to experience it. Every player should try it at least once in his career.

“People are telling me Liverpool did not play all that well at the weekend but, believe me, if they had lost 10-0 at QPR I would still be worried about coming here for a European night. We are expecting a tough game.”

Ronaldo has scored 17 goals in nine games for his club so far this season and Arbeloa says that his team-mate could hardly be in a better place.

“The form Cristiano is currently showing is incredible,” the full-back remarked. “The records he is setting in Spain at the moment take some believing.

“I don’t know if he is in the best form of his career – other people may be better placed to judge – but confidence-wise I’d say he is the highest he could be right now.”

The Welshman has been ruled out of the clash at Anfield, plus this weekend’s Clasico against Barcelona, but the Reds chief is unconcerned by the fact he will miss out


Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has downplayed Gareth Bale’s absence for Real Madrid ahead of their Champions League Group B clash on Wednesday.

The Reds welcome the reigning European champions to Anfield having made an unconvincing return to the game’s premier club cup competition this season, fortuitously defeating minnows Ludogorets 2-1 before slumping to a 1-0 loss to Swiss side Basel.

Bale’s omission from Real’s squad, due to a hip injury, will come as a boost to Liverpool’s hopes of victory, however, Rodgers is still wary of a side led by Ballon d’Or holder Cristiano Ronaldo and which also features the attacking talents of the likes of James Rodriguez and Karim Benzema.

“It’s still going to be a very difficult game for us, they have a squad full of top-class players,” Rodgers said.

“Of course, there is a special talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world at the moment, and his evolution from being a soloist who scores goals to a goalscorer is there to see and his record is incredible.

“But we have to make a plan for our team first to ensure we cause Real Madrid problems and then prepare yourself for the quality players they have, but that will be as a team.”

The Northern Irishman’s main concern will likely be how to engineer an attacking threat, with Daniel Sturridge out through injury and close-season acquisition Mario Balotelli struggling to find form.

Former Manchester City and Milan striker Balotelli missed an open goal in a 3-2 triumph at QPR last Sunday, but Rodgers is confident the Italian will soon rediscover his scoring touch.

“He’s [Balotelli] been fine, of course he was disappointed after the weekend – he’s a goalscorer so he wants to score goals,” Rodgers added.

“But I highlighted to him he was in the positions to miss, he was arriving in the areas, so I think it’s only a matter of time before he gets his goals.

“He’s a good kid, he’s working hard and he has scored goals in big games and I’m sure he will go into the game tomorrow night – if selected – focused on getting off the mark again, and as long as he is in there getting into the positions I’m sure he can score.”

The coach does not expect his star forward to struggle with pressure on Wednesdady and revealed he was “holding back tears” upon being announced as Real Madrid boss

Carlo Ancelotti has warned Liverpool fans they are wasting their time if they taunt former Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday night.

Real Madrid face Brendan Rodgers’ men in their latest Champions League group stage encounter at Anfield – one of the few major grounds at which the Portugal international is yet to score.

Ronaldo has struck twice in nine games against Liverpool, but is currently on an incredible run of goalscoring form having found the back of the net 20 times in just 13 appearances for club and country this term.

And Madrid boss Ancelotti – who on Monday ruled out the prospect of the 29-year-old ever returning to United – believes nothing can possibly faze his star man and even thinks the hostility on Merseyside could work in his favour.

“No, he won’t be more motivated because it’s Liverpool,” Ancelotti told The Sun.

“Cristiano is always super-motivated. But, if the atmosphere is hostile, this motivates him more.”

Ancelotti – who lifted the Champions League and the Copa del Rey in his first season as Madrid boss last term – looked back at his maiden campaign in charge of the club at Tuesday’s press conference and revealed how he came close to tears upon being given the job in the summer of 2013.

“I remember I was trying to hold back tears on the day of my presentation as coach of Real Madrid,” the former Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan boss added.

“I knew it was the largest in the world, the world’s largest club and was professionally it’s been a great pleasure to coach this team.”

Madrid have won their opening two group stage games against Ludogorets and Basel, and victory on Wednesday could move them to within touching distance of a place in the knockout stages of the competition.

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