Never taking a day off, Real Madrid eye Dubai match with AC Milan seriously

John McAuley previews Tuesday night's Dubai football showpiece between the Spanish and Italian giants, and finds Real manager Carlo Ancelotti in no mood to take his foot of the Madrid pedal.
Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid side will take on AC Milan in Dubai at The Sevens on Tuesday night, December 30, 2014. Miguel Vidal / Reuters
Cristiano Ronaldo's Real Madrid side will take on AC Milan in Dubai at The Sevens on Tuesday night, December 30, 2014. Miguel Vidal / Reuters

DUBAI // Carlo Ancelotti says tonight’s friendly against AC Milan in Dubai is key to maintaining Real Madrid’s quest for a place in the history books.

The European and world champions arrived on Monday morning to continue preparations for the Dubai Football Challenge, where they will face Milan at The Sevens stadium.

Madrid view the fixture, added to their programme at the beginning of the season, as integral to the maintenance of momentum built during the past few months: the Spanish side have registered 22 consecutive victories and stand two short of the world record set by Brazil’s Coritiba.

Read more: Real Madrid v AC Milan in Dubai – what you need to know

Madrid, currently top of La Liga, return to competitive action on January 4. They will also attempt this season to become the first club to successfully defend the Uefa Champions League, having won the European crown for a record 10th time in May. They resume their European campaign in February, with the last 16 tie against Schalke.

At Emirates Group Headquarters on Monday, Ancelotti confirmed he planned to field a strong line-up on Tuesday night. Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, two of the world’s leading players, are among the stars set to feature.

“This week is important to prepare for the next games,” Ancelotti said. “We want to play this one to prepare well for the next.”

Asked to explain Madrid’s recent remarkable run, the Italian replied: “In football there are no secrets. There is the hard work, the professionalism of the players, the organisation of the club. A lot of things.

“At this moment we are doing well, but we have to pay attention because football is strange. When everything seems good, it’s the moment you fall down. We stay focused to continue like this.”

In the 2014/15 Champions League, Madrid became only the sixth team to win all six group matches. They scored 16 goals, conceding two. Another title appears increasingly plausible, although Ancelotti accepts it will be difficult.

Sitting alongside Ancelotti, Isco, the Madrid midfielder, said: “We know 2015 will be very difficult in the beginning. We want to carry on how we ended 2014. The team is prepared mentally to face the challenges next year.”

Ancelotti cited the commitment of the Madrid squad as the main reason for the club’s success.

In Ronaldo, he possesses the reigning world player of the year, who is expected next month to collect a second successive Ballon d’Or. This calendar year, he has scored 56 goals.

Ancelotti, though, refused to single out the Portuguese forward for special praise.

“All these players are really professional, and Cristiano is one of the first in this,” he said. “But I don’t want to make a table [to compare]. All the players are working together, playing as one and we are going well.

“I’m sure we’ll continue to have the results. I feel really good.

“I’ve had problems in the past with other teams, but this team is really easy to manage.”

Ancelotti has coached several of Europe’s most prominent clubs, including Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. He joined Madrid in the June 2013, succeeding Jose Mourinho.

Earlier this month, Florentino Perez, the Madrid president, said the club planned to open negotiations about a contract extension at the conclusion of this season.

Ancelotti said: “My ambition is to stay at Real Madrid, to try to do my best at Real Madrid. I feel good with this team, with this club and with these players. I want to continue in the future.”

jmcauley@thenational.ae

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE

Published: December 30, 2014 04:00 AM

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