Ancelotti fine with Madrid not seen as favorite against City

MADRID (AP) — Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t seem bothered by hearing that Real Madrid isn’t the favorite against Manchester City in the Champions League semifinals.

That has happened a couple of times already this season, and he knows the 13-time European champions can do just fine.

Madrid visits Man City in the first leg of the semifinals on Tuesday, hoping to return to the final for the first time since winning its last title in 2018.

“People said that there were two teams in the semifinals that nobody believed would make it this far — Real Madrid and Villarreal,” Ancelotti said Monday. “And here we are, thrilled to have made it. Madrid will always compete, it’s what we always do.”

Madrid eliminated Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16, getting the best of Kylian Mbappé, Neymar and Lionel Messi, then defeated defending champion Chelsea in the quarterfinals.

“We’ve had some very tough opponents so far, who in the beginning were considered the favorites to win the competition, but we’ve done well against them and tomorrow we will try to compete well again, there’s no doubt about that,” the Madrid coach said.

Madrid is in the semifinals for the 10th time in 12 seasons, and first time since being eliminated by Chelsea at this stage last year. The team is making a record 15th semifinal appearance.

Ancelotti may be without two regular starters because of muscle injuries on Tuesday — defender David Alaba and midfielder Casemiro. Both made the trip to England but it was unclear if they would play.

“It’s more likely that Alaba can make it, not so much Casemiro,” Ancelotti said. “He is trying. We’ll see.”

The coach has a few options to replace Casemiro, with Federico Valverde and Eduardo Camavinga able to play in the position. Nacho Fernández would likely be the replacement to Alaba in the middle of the defense.

“I always give my best and I play wherever the coach wants me to play,” Valverde said. “We are all prepared.”

Ancelotti said he didn’t think Madrid will have much of an advantage for not having played this weekend in the Spanish league, nor for having all-but-clinched the league title while Man City remains in contention in the Premier League.

Some of the spotlight on Tuesday will be on Madrid striker Karim Benzema, who has scored 15 goals in his last 11 games and is one shy of the Champions League’s leading scorer this season, Robert Lewandowski.

The France striker was key for Madrid against PSG and Chelsea. He scored a second-half hat trick in the second leg against PSG and another in the first leg against Chelsea. He also netted the decisive second-leg goal against Chelsea in extra time.

In the other semifinal matchup, Liverpool hosts Villarreal in the first leg on Wednesday.

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