Onward To The Ancestral Land Of Xabis

6 Mar

Satellite (9)It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I was happily strolling through the galleries of the Guggenheim Bilbao and snarfing pintxos in San Sebastian with watishista mygypsyspirit. WAH!

Our boys had their final training before they head off to Basque Country (aka ‘The Ancestral Land of Xabis’) for what promises to be a tough match against Athletic Bilbao.



Ancelotti: “We’ll have to give the maximum effort to win at San Mamés”

“It’s going to be a very intense match, Athletic press very well”, said the coach.

Carlo Ancelotti spoke to the media before the final training session ahead of the La Liga clash with Athletic. The Italian said: “The key factors are intensity and managing to break free from the pressure Athletic exert at home. Winning at San Mamés is always difficult, we’ll have to give the maximum effort to get the three points.”

“We have an identity and the players always show the maximum attitude levels. The team are used to playing this way and we have to keep on doing this. It’s our philosophy and it’s the key to winning trophies. We’re doing it very well.”

Intensity at San Mamés
“Every match has its own story, in some you start well and in others not so well. In some you don’t start with your intensity at 100% and you feel you’re going to sort it out, they’re things that happen in football. We want to start every game well, with maximum intensity. Tomorrow we need to start well, because it’s going to be a very intense game, Athletic press very well. The players are going to give it a good go.”

“Winning at San Mamés is always difficult.”

“I still have complete confidence in the team. Now the important point of the season is coming, when the matches are very important. We’re top of La Liga and in a good position in the Champions League. I have total confidence in the team, who won a lot of trophies last year and did very well. I’m convinced that we’re going to have a good end to the season.”

Substitutions in matches
“I’ve spoken to the players. One minute or 30 seconds are very important for the team to be able to win. The team and Real Madrid come above all else and the players understand that. I’ve spoken to Jesé about this subject and he understood completely.”

Backing of the club
“I’ve felt supported by the club since the first day. In that respect I have no problems. On taking a tough approach, I have a lot of experience; every year since I started this issue comes up. This soft touch, as everyone calls it, has allowed me to win three Champions Leagues.”

Criticism after the Villarreal match
“I’ve seen the team work hard and prepare well for tomorrow’s match. I’m used to criticism, it won’t be the last time it happens, and it doesn’t change how I operate or the confidence I have in this team. The substitution of Illarra for Isco against Villarreal is one I would do again. I think that Illarra brought balance.”

Situation in the midfield
“Modric isn’t in the squad, and will be on Tuesday against Schalke. In terms of the midfield, I have doubts about whether to field Illarra or Lucas Silva or Khedira.”

Venue for the Copa final
“I’m not going to give an opinion, it’s an issue that the club has to sort out and a decision will be made in the coming days. We’re not in the final and I don’t want to give an opinion.”

“He’s doing very well, following his programme with Castilla. He’s showing personality and quality. He hasn’t been here for long, training with his team-mates, and I don’t think he’ll be in the squad on Tuesday because we have Modric coming in.”

Current form
“We’ve lost a bit of efficiency up front. We’re finding it more difficult to look for opportunities when the opponent is set out compactly.”

Illarra and Lucas Silva
“Sometimes the choice of one player is down to small details. In the first game Lucas Silva did well, then he played because Illarra had played before and he was fresher, against Schalke I liked how Lucas interpreted the match. It’s about moments and the choice of player depends on small details.”

Rotation in the squad
“I think that everyone knows that Cristiano, Bale and Benzema are good, but we have to evaluate what I’ve said. Sometimes they’re not at 100% and that’s normal. Competition within the squad is very important. Everyone knows, and the players know, how important it is for us.”

James and Ramos
“James hasn’t started working with the team. Ramos is going to start on Sunday and will do a week of training with the team. He might be ready for the match against Levante.”

“I know all the players in Europe, because I follow almost all the leagues. I know about Danilo and that’s all. We’re not thinking about signings at this moment in time. I like him, just as I like many other players who are in Europe.”

“I don’t need to talk to Arbeloa and Carvajal about this subject. They are not in the habit of listening to these rumours, which are normal at this point of the season.”

Would the national anthem be whistled in Italy?
“In Italy it’s slightly more unusual, it hasn’t been long since the players started to sing the anthem. I don’t think it would be whistled in Italy.”

The following players were called up for the match:

Goalkeepers: Casillas, Keylor Navas and Pacheco.
Defenders: Varane, Pepe, Coentrão, Marcelo, Carvajal, Arbeloa and Nacho.
Midfielders: Kroos, Bale, Lucas Silva, Isco, Khedira and Illarra.
Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema, Chicharito and Jesé.

And Cristiano continues to ass kick stats into oblivion – he’s already overtaken 80% of the Pichichis in La Liga’s 66 year history with 13 match days left to play. Yoinks! Long may he continue as a Blanco.

– Lozil

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