Ancelotti: It's an honour, and a problem, to face Simeone

Carlo Ancelotti praised his rival coach and underlined the importance of Gareth Bale ahead of the Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid.

Real Madrid head the short distance across the Spanish capital on Tuesday night for the crucial first-leg battle of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Atletico Madrid.

At the preview press conference on Monday, via Marca (translations by Heath Chesters/HITC), Los Blancos coach Carlo Ancelotti was first and somewhat directly asked if his job is at risk if his side fail to make it past their city rivals.

The Italian responded: "I don't think so, no. It depends on the work done over the course of a whole season, and this is just one game which is part of that season. I think any judgements made over my work, will be made at the end of the season."

Elimination from the Copa del Rey this season at the hands of Atletico, plus the 4-0 drubbing from their last visit to the Vicente Calderon, is still very much fresh in the minds of Real Madrid. Ancelotti was asked to ponder why beating them has seemed an almost impossible task over recent years.

He suggested: "Every game presents its own problems, and every game has it's ideas. The defeats against Atletico were always different. It's difficult to say what's happened, but we've already evaluated them."

Playing the first-leg away from home, then the second at the Santiago Bernabeu, could be seen as a slight advantage for Real Madrid. Looking at the bigger picture of the two games, Ancelotti analysed: "There are two games to play. We don't necessarily need to win this first one, because drawing could be just as important. What we do want is to get through this tie, against a complicated team, who reached the final alongside us."

Whilst there's an element of revenge for Atletico on offer, having lost the final last season, the same could be said about Real Madrid, given their poor domestic record against their rivals from across town. However, Ancelotti was at pains to express: "We don't have any obsession about Atletico, just reaching the semi-finals. Our objective is to dream of winning the 'Undécima' (11th European title), not just beating Atletico."

Clearly there's much respect from Ancelotti, towards rival manager Diego Simeone. When asked for his thoughts about the Atletico coach, the Italian explained: "There's not much I can say, other than that he's a great manager. He's demonstrated that in all aspects. He's one of the best in the world, so it's both an honour and a problem, to face Simeone."

"It's something we've worked on," explained Ancelotti regarding the danger posed by Atletico from set-pieces. He then joked: "The best way to practice would be to train against Atletico, but we can't do that."

Downplaying the importance and the difficulties containing the set-pieces of Atletico, however, Ancelotti pointed out that in the final last season: "We've already won a Champions League via set-pieces of our own."

Much of the focus for rival media outlet, AS, (translations by Heath Chesters/HITC), was on Welsh star Gareth Bale, his performances, contribution to the team and his fitness.

"Bale is fine. He's available, just like everyone in the squad." Ancelotti assured, adding: "We'll decide the starting eleven and the bench tomorrow. The whole squad is available, all the players are fine and fresh."

The 25-year-old missed the weekend victory against Eibar in La Liga, with Ancelotti taking no risks. Pushed as to whether the player has recovered fully from his injury, Ancelotti insisted: "If Bale isn't 100%, he won't play, because I have an ample enough squad which is fine. If there's anyone not at 100%, they won't play."

Amidst the criticism for Bale, have been suggestions he's too much of an individualist, or doesn't contribute defensively, but as far as Ancelotti is concerned and including the Welshman: "Everyone must get involved defensively and offensively."

Continuing to demonstrate his confidence in the former Tottenham star, Ancelotti underlined: "Gareth Bale was fantastic last season and is going well now. He scored in our two finals last season and that was key to completing the season. He will be important for us towards reaching this final."

Turning attention back to rivals Atletico Madrid, Ancelotti acknowledged: "They're a complicated opponent. They have great character defensively and they're a rival for whom we have the utmost respect."

He also concluded that what he admires most about Simeone's side, is their ability and determination: "To fight from the very first minute, to the very last."

Real Madrid will need to do the same, if they're to escape the Calderon with a positive result on Tuesday night, in order to keep the tie alive for the second and decisive encounter on their home turf at the Bernabeu.

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