Real Madrid coach Ancelotti defends selection for Copa defeat at Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti defended his selection for their Copa del Rey quarterfinal defeat to Athletic Bilbao.

Real lost at San Mames 1-0 to a late Athletic winner.

Ancelotti said, “We’re hurting because we want to win every competition we’re involved in. We won the Super Cup, we’re in good shape in another two competitions and I don’t think this defeat will have any adverse consequences. The consequence is that this defeat could make us stronger. We knew it was going to be a difficult game and we had players out. Vini Jr. gave it everything he could, they really played hard against him but that’s the way it is.

“I took (Toni) Kroos off for (Eduardo) Camavinga due to fatigue, the Vini Jr. and Isco switch was down to fatigue… I had more changes and I was planning to use them in extra-time. Unfortunately they scored in the last minute and I didn’t get time to put other guys on.”

He also snapped: “I have nothing to say. Why are you talking about (Gareth) Bale, (Eden) Hazard and (Luka) Jović? Why not ask about (Dani) Ceballos, (Dani) Carvajal? All of the guys who don’t play, it must because they’re being punished, right? It can’t be just those three. There’s nothing in it.

“I made decisions which didn’t involve those players but if we’re being honest you have to discuss Ceballos, who didn’t play a single minute, and those who are on the bench like (Jesus) Vallejo, who have the same quality.

“I wasn’t surprised by the way the game went. It’s true that Athletic were more attacking in the first half, but they didn’t create many chances and we defended very well. The difference compared to other games is that we weren’t able to play out from the back due to their pressing.

“We played out wide too much as we had to have the ball more centrally with (Thibaut) Courtois and Casemiro. When we moved the ball out wide through (David) Alaba and Lucas (Vazquez), we put them under pressure. At the end of the first half we spoke about having more of the ball centrally but it didn’t work out the way we wanted it to.”

Asked if it was the worst performance of the season, Ancelotti added: “No, not at all. It was difficult because we knew the game against Athletic would be tough. We won in LaLiga, but it was tough. The game was extremely tight until the final minute and Athletic deserved it for the incredible effort they put in, but no, I don’t think it was our worst performance of the season.”

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