Barcelona not a ‘direct rival’ in LaLiga title race

Carlo Ancelotti has said he does not now see Barcelona as “a direct rival” for the LaLiga title, with Real Madrid leading the way and Barca 18 points behind them in eighth.

Madrid have won 10 consecutive games in all competitions — including against top four contenders Atletico Madrid, Real Sociedad and Sevilla — while Barca have dropped points against Real Betis and Osasuna in their last two games under new coach Xavi Hernandez.

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Xavi had insisted on Friday that his team could still compete for the competition, but Ancelotti was not convinced when that claim was presented to him at a press conference on Saturday.

‘A direct rival? No,’ said Ancelotti. “They are further back than Sevilla, Atletico, Betis. But Barcelona have the quality to fight to the end. If I were Barcelona coach I would say the exact same thing.”

Madrid has had a challenging week, with six players – Luka Modric, Marcelo, Marco Asensio, Rodrygo, Gareth Bale and Andriy Lunin – and Ancelotti’s son and assistant Davide all testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of Sunday’s game against cadiz.

“We’ve had setbacks,” Ancelotti said. “But those who tested positive are all fine… Unfortunately, we have to live with this. We never thought of postponing the game. We have a squad that can handle it. Football and society must continue.” , while bearing in mind that we must be careful and take precautions.”

Ancelotti said he was not yet sure when midfielder Modric would return, having followed his positive test a few days later on Friday with a negative result.

“He hasn’t trained, he’s a bit tired and he had a fever this week, so he won’t play tomorrow,” Ancelotti said. “We have to assess what the rules say, whether he has to wait 10 days or whether he can train after a negative test, we have to clarify that.”

Striker Karim Benzema — LaLiga’s top goalscorer and assist provider so far this season — was doubtful for Cadiz’s game after coming out at halftime during last Sunday’s Madrid derby.

Ancelotti confirmed he would be available and added that Eden Hazard was lining up for his first LaLiga start since September.

“He will start, he will get minutes and show his quality,” said Ancelotti. “He will play – not because there are absent – but because he is well trained and deserves it.”

Madrid finally finished in the Champions League round of 16 against Paris Saint-Germain on Monday after errors led to UEFA repeating the initial draw that had linked them to Benfica.

“It was a shame,” Ancelotti said. “But we are looking ahead and thinking about playing a difficult but very exciting game against one of the best teams in Europe.”

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