- Real Madrid can face any of the teams in Champions League last four
- Hernandez deserves goal
- Real Madrid’s dream of playing in the final is alive
- Simeone goes home happy
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says he is nursing no fear about his sides last 4 opponent in the UEFA Champions League after Wednesday’s hard-fought victory over Atletico Madrid.
The Italian tactician, 55, lauded goal scorer Javier Hernandez after the Mexican’s match-winning goal helped the Los Blancos advance into the semi-finals of Europe’s elite club competition for a fifth year running, 1-0 on aggregate scores. The ten-time winners are joined by fellow La Liga outfit Barcelona FC, Italian champions Juventus and Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in Friday’s draw in Nyon, Switzerland.
“‘Chicharito’ played very well. He has had a difficult season and deserves this goal,” he said in his post-game media briefing in the bowels of the Estadio Santiago Bernebeu after final whistle.
“Real Madrid can compete with any other semi-finalist, no problem. We respect all three semi-finalists. They all deserve to be there. Let’s see what happens in the draw.”
Ancelotti was without the services of striker Karim Bezema and midfielder Gareth Bale in last night’s reverse, having to deploy Spanish defender Sergio Ramos to the holding midfield position and return Hernandes for a starting role after his impressive display against Malaga at the weekend.
“I had the idea (of playing Sergio Ramos in midfield) to make us more comfortable at free-kicks,” he noted. “Ramos has the quality to play in that position. He sacrifices himself for the team and played the position very well.
“We will have time for injured players to recover and things are going to get better. Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will have recovered soon but I cannot say when.”
The win was significant for a fantastic set of ‘Merengues’ crowd, who had watched their beloved team go seven matches in the Capital city derby without a win. And it was largely made possible owing to their resilient showing in the 0-0 draw at the Vicente Calderon stadium last week.
Real are bidding to become the first team to record back-to-back successes in the Champions League after previously seeing off their neighbours to win their tenth European Cup in Lisbon last year.
“It was a key game in our season,” Ancelotti added. “Atletico are always a strong team but we did well. The first leg gave us the confidence that we could control this match and score.
“We have kept our dream of playing another final alive. We are going to try to win everything. When we are firing we are very dangerous. Every match is an exam for us. We passed this one well.”
Simeone no sour feeling
Diego Simeone is proud of his Atletico team despite falling at the mercy of another late strike at the expense of their Madrid rivals for a second season running.
The La Liga champions gave Real a run for their money in either leg of their quarter-final meeting but just could not find a breakthrough themselves.
Simeone said: “I go away proud of my team. Once more we competed really well in the UEFA Champions League, which is a very difficult competition. At times we can play better or worse, but I am so proud of the players and being the coach of the type of players who give what they gave today.
“When I was a boy I was taught you have to compete in a game and when I gave everything and lost, I could go home happy. When the team work as they did today there are no negative feelings.
“We congratulate Real because they played very well and scored a great goal.”