Carlo Ancelotti After Real Madrid’s Monumental 4-1 Victory Over Villarreal: “Girona Is Our Biggest Rival.”

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid welcomed a chance to go back to the summit of the Spanish La Liga when they hosted Villarreal CF at Santiago Bernabéu yesterday, and the 14-time European Cup / UEFA Champions League winners certainly maximise the opportunity, beating their visitors with an emphatic 4-1 score line after 90 minutes plus added time. The win gave the 35-time Spanish top-flight football champions Los Blancos 42 points out of a possible 51 after 17 Matchdays thus far.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid came into this game on the back of a sixth win in as many matches in Group C in the Champions League, becoming one of two teams to finish their group stage campaign of the European club football competition via a perfect record, with the other being defending champions Manchester City.

Carlo Ancelotti’s side took the lead in the 25th minute, when Jude Bellingham, arguably the best summer signing of the season, netted his 17th goal for his new club by heading in a first-time dink delivery by veteran midfielder Luka Modrić. Los Blancos then doubled their lead with Rodrygo, who converted a close-ranged shot into the back of the net off a chaotic situation during a corner set piece delivery. The goal was the Brazilian’s 10th in 23 games in all competitions in 2023/2024.

The visiting Villarreal did pull one back minutes before the hour mark in the second half, thanks to José Luis Morales’s effort, but the experienced player’s strike did not help mount a comeback for his team. Instead, it was Carlo Ancelotti’s Real who continued to dominate in the game, restoring the two-goal cushion in the 64th minute and sealing the victory at 4-1 four minutes after the third goal. 24-year-old Brahim Díaz took on the entire Villarreal defence on his own, before firing in a superb goal, followed by Modrić’s careful placement moments later. It was the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner’s first goal for his club in 2023/2024.

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The 4-1 win could have been sweeter, had David Alaba not left the field in the 35th minute due to an injury. The 31-year-old Austria international was later confirmed to have suffered from a torn ACL, and that a surgery will be required to fix the issue, meaning the player would be sidelined for an extensive period of time in 2023/2024. “Following tests carried out on our player David Alaba, he has been diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He will undergo surgery in the coming days,” reads in a Real Madrid statement.

Alaba is certainly not the first player from Real Madrid to have gone down due to an ACL issue this season; The 35-time Spanish La Liga giants have lost Éder Militão and Eduardo Camavinga due to similar issues earlier this year. These players’ absences left Antonio Rüdiger and Nacho as the team’s only fit centre-backs at the moment, which means it is more than likely that Real will shop for replacements in the upcoming winter transfer window.

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64-year-old Carlo Ancelotti had this to say during the post-match conference: “It was a complete performance by the whole team and there was an extraordinary level of collective commitment on display. The individual moments of brilliance were key, like Modrić’s pass to Bellingham. The latter just keeps on scoring, there was a goal for Rodrygo to and of course, Brahim’s wonderful individual goal. He put the icing on the cake of a superb defensive performance. This isn’t a statement. We’re doing a good job and today was one of our best games, particularly in terms of our defensive press.”

The four-time Champions League winner as a head coach Carlo Ancelotti also added: “We started the season in a diamond shape, with the wings a little deserted. We’ve changed it up now and the press was incredible today. We put Luka on the centre-back and Lucas Vázquez took the full-back. When you press high, the game has a great edge to it. That suits us without the ball and against teams who are strong on the ball like Villarreal. Our opponents were never comfortable on the ball today and my team deserves the credit for that.”

The Italian manager of Los Blancos was not shy in mentioning Girona as their biggest challengers in this season’s Spanish top-flight football. “Girona is our biggest rival to this point. The La Liga season is very long and it will be hard fought until the end, with Barcelona and Atlético too,” said Carlo Ancelotti. Girona are set to take on Deportivo Alavés at home tonight and a win will see the surprise package of this season’s La Liga to leapfrog Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid and return to the summit of Spanish top-flight football.

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