Ancelotti claims Real Madrid suffering affects from World Cup despite Super Cup progress

Cup holders, who had 14 players competing at recent global finals, booked place in Riyadh showpiece with shoot-out win against Valencia

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Carlo Ancelotti said it is “normal not to be at our best” as Real Madrid required penalties to overcome Valencia on Wednesday night and book a spot in the Spanish Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia.

The European champions, the competition holders, triumphed 4-3 in the shoot-out at King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh after the semi-final had finished 1-1 in normal time. Karim Benzema had given Madrid the lead with a 39th-minute penalty, before Valencia drew level at the start of the second half through Samuel Lino.

It then needed an inspired performance from Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois to seal the victory for his side, with the Belgium international making a string of saves before repelling Jose Gaya in the shoot-out.

Madrid, who have endured a tough start to 2023, face in Sunday’s showpiece either Barcelona or Real Betis, who play Thursday night.

Assessing the Valencia win, Ancelotti said afterwards: “It wasn’t a physical problem, because we were the better side at the end of the second half and in extra time. It’s normal for us to not be at our best, as we had 14 players at the World Cup, and some players only recently came back, but we made it to the final once again.

“It was a difficult game, but there aren’t easy games at this level. We made it difficult for ourselves by messing up at the start of the second half. I think we were more compact as a defensive block tonight, but there was that one specific action when we didn’t press the ball and when we didn’t defend the cross.

“But our first half was good and the end of the game was good. We’re happy to have made it through. It’s obvious that we’re not at our best, but we’ll get better little by little and, even still, we managed to get the job done tonight.”

Madrid have stuttered since the turn of the year, just about getting past second-division side Cacereno in the Copa del Rey – they won 1-0 away – and then losing 2-1 at Villarreal in La Liga. That defeat meant Madrid slipped three points behind leaders Barcelona in the race for the domestic title.

However, Ancelotti is hoping sealing another trophy can spark his side once more, saying: “We normally do well in finals, so we’ll see how we do. We’ll fight to win the final and to win the Super Cup.”

Updated: January 12, 2023, 7:00 AM