Morata set to come in for Benzema
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has suggested that youngster Alvaro Morata will replace Karim Benzema in attack for Saturday’s La Liga game at Levante, but said the decision would be purely down to squad rotation.
Diego Lopez, Sergio Ramos, Alvaro Arbeloa and Isco should also return to the starting line-up for the trip to the Ciutat de Valencia stadium after being rested for Wednesday’s Champions League game against Copenhagen at the Bernabeu, which Madrid won 4-0.
Ancelotti told reporters after training on Friday that he was bringing players in and out as games were arriving thick and fast.
“There are rotations as we have a lot of games, so that everyone is in good condition,” he said. “Tomorrow, some players will start who did not start against Copenhagen. It is rotation to avoid problems. Morata could play from the start tomorrow. Many who did not play [on Wednesday] will play tomorrow.”
Benzema said after Wednesday’s game that he had taken on board criticism from Bernabeu fans unhappy at his recent performances, and Ancelotti maintained he had not lost faith in the France international, the only experienced striker in his squad.
“Benzema has his position in the team -- he is our starting forward,” the Italian said. “In the last two games he has not scored, but I have confidence in him. I have not spoken with him after the game, because I did not need to.”
Ancelotti said the tactical switch to 4-3-3 for Wednesday’s game had been a success, but that did not mean his previous preference for 4-4-2 had been jettisoned.
“We played like that against Copenhagen and I liked how the players interpreted the system,” he said. “We had good balance. I believe it depends a lot on the position of Cristiano [Ronaldo]; if he is more open, we need to play with three midfielders. For me in the future, it is important to be able to play both 4-3-3 and 4-4-2 naturally.”
There was also praise for Angel Di Maria, who continues to impress in the absence of the injured Gareth Bale.
“Di Maria is playing very well -- he scored two goals the other day,” Ancelotti said. “He played in a more attacking position. His quality is that he can play in many positions on the field. For that, he is a very important player. He can play right, left, in the centre. He is a very versatile player.”
Madrid have not had the best of times at Levante in recent seasons -- Ronaldo took a blow to the face there last season in a physical game that the visitors won 2-1, while former manager Jose Mourinho singled out midfielder Sami Khedira for heavy criticism after a 1-0 defeat in September 2011.
“It is a difficult game,” he said. “Madrid have had a lot of problems there in previous games. We must be very focused. We have had problems against teams who are more or less like them -- like Villarreal and Elche. We need to play a very intensive game to win.”
Despite Madrid’s current issues, Ancelotti said he did not feel the five-point gap to La Liga leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid would be a problem because his team would soon click and start playing better.
“It is concerning if we played all our games like we did [in last weekend’s 1-0 defeat] against Atletico,” he said. “But it will not be like that. Madrid are going to play better in the coming games, play more naturally, so we have the chance to recover.”