Ancelotti: 'Special' to face Mourinho
Carlo Ancelotti says Real Madrid’s International Champions Cup final against Chelsea on Wednesday night is a "special" game.
The Italian has, however, played down the "morbo" (meaning an unhealthy curiosity or rivalry) element of his players facing up against old coach Jose Mourinho.
The game at Miami’s Sun Life Stadium has predictably attracted more interest than most pre-season friendlies, given Mourinho’s eventful three years at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, and particularly the regular rows with Blancos players, fans and journalists which marred his last season in charge.
Mourinho has been keen to continue the conversation, using an exclusive ESPN interview last weekend to implicitly criticise both Madrid president Florentino Perez and his fellow countryman Cristiano Ronaldo.
Such behaviour has only fed the Spanish media hype around the game, with Marca’s front cover featuring the pun ‘Morbinho’ on Wednesday morning showing a large photo of the Portuguese seemingly agitated.
Journalists at Tuesday’s pre-game press conference were keen to play up this angle, but Madrid’s more phlegmatic new coach preferred to see the game as an opportunity for him to see again the friends he made during his own two seasons as Chelsea boss.
“It is a special game,” Ancelotti said. “I was two years in Chelsea. I have had a very good relationship with all the players and the fans. It is an important pre-season game, because we are playing against a strong team and it will be a good test to see our physical condition after the work we have done.”
Pressed about whether players such as Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos or Iker Casillas would have extra motivation for the game, Ancelotti repeated that preparing for August 18’s La Liga kick off was everyone’s main preoccupation.
“We are going to play a game against a strong team, not against Mourinho,” he said. “For us it is important to play well and do our best. We must try to improve our physical condition, because the season starts soon.”
The Italian, who claimed he was "sure" Cristiano Ronaldo would sign a new Madrid contract, and declined to comment further on Gareth Bale’s likely €100 million move to the Bernabeu, also said he expected centre-half Pepe to remain at the club, despite reported interest from Manchester City.
“I have spoken with Pepe,” Ancelotti said. “I am very clear. He is a very important player, because he is a good defender, he has character and experience. I believe he will be here this season.”