Carlo Ancelotti doesn’t even know who his Real Madrid side will face in the UEFA Champions League semifinals (the draw is scheduled for Friday at 5 am ET in Nyon, Switzerland), and the Italian manager is already making the Spanish giants a favorite of sorts.
[ RECAPS: All of this week’s UCL action ]
Ancelotti attributes the pre-semifinal position of power to the recovery from injury and expected availability of two of Real’s most important attacking figures.
According to Ancelotti, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, both of whom missed Wednesday’s quarterfinal second leg against Atletico Madrid, “will be fit quickly,” which the Italian manager infers to mean they will be very much in time for the Champions League semifinals.
“We will recover the injured players for the semi-finals so the things are going to improve,” said Ancelotti following Wednesday’s triumph in Madrid. “I think Bale and Benzema will be fit quickly but I cannot say an exact day.”
“If we play with the desire we did today, Real Madrid can compete with anyone.”
The absence of Benzema seemed to be the bigger miss for Real on Wednesday, because despite the fact that his replacement, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, scored the winning goal, the lack of Benzema’s hold-up play and combining with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco and James Rodriguez was plain as day.
Naturally, the potential return of either player will boost Real’s chances in the next round, but with two other sides — Barcelona and Bayern Munich — playing some of their best soccer of the season, and Juventus looking as tough as ever to break down, Los Blancos are going to have their hands full no matter who they draw on Friday.