Carlo Ancelotti said midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are « untouchable » at Real Madrid but « that doesn’t mean they play every game » with competition from youngsters Aurelien Tchouameni, Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde.
Modric missed Thursday’s 3-2 Copa del Rey comeback win at Villarreal through injury, while Kroos was substituted at 2-0 down with replacement Dani Ceballos contributing to all three Madrid goals, scoring the 86th minute winner.
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Madrid are facing a tough fixture list, with Sunday’s LaLiga trip to Athletic Club followed by a cup quarterfinal derby with Atletico Madrid next Thursday, and then hosting in-form Real Sociedad next weekend.
« The squad is untouchable, » Ancelotti said in a news conference on Saturday, when asked if managing the transition from one generation to another was his toughest job as coach.
« It’s not only [Modric and Kroos]it’s the others who come onto the pitch and give everything, like Ceballos and [Marco] Asensio did [at Villarreal]. Modric and Kroos are untouchable, but that doesn’t mean they have to play every game.
« They’re players who’ve made history at this club, they’re making history and they will make history. But that doesn’t mean they have to play every game. »
Madrid went into Thursday’s Copa del Rey round-of-16 game under pressure — after a loss to Villarreal in LaLiga and a defeat to Barcelona in the Spanish Supercopa final — and performed poorly, before a dramatic second-half turnaround.
« The reaction at Villarreal was very good, » Ancelotti added. « We made big mistakes in the first half. Over the last few days we’ve evaluated everything. We [don’t have time] to train, so we recover and watch videos. The mistakes were quite clear, let’s hope they’re not repeated… We can’t give away [goals] like in recent games. »
Ancelotti also dismissed reports of interest from Premier League leaders Arsenal in Camavinga — saying « Eduardo is untouchable, like Modric or Kroos » — and said he’d accepted Tchouameni’s apology for attending an NBA game between the Chicago Bulls and the Detroit Pistons in Paris while Madrid were playing in Villarreal.
« He’s apologized in public, » Ancelotti said. « He made a mistake, he’s a young boy who made one mistake and it’s over. Let’s hope he can be back [from injury] next week. »