Carlo Ancelotti warns Real Madrid must give Al Hilal full respect in Club World Cup final

[09-02-2023 12:34 PM]

Ammon News - Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti says his side will not underestimate Al Hilal when the two meet in the Fifa Club World Cup final this weekend.

The European champions, record seven-time winners, set up a clash with their Asian counterparts on Saturday by defeating Egyptian side Al Ahly 4-1 in Wednesday night’s semi-final in Rabat, Morocco.

Hilal, meanwhile, came through their last-four encounter against Flamengo on Tuesday, defeating the South American champions 3-2. In doing so, Hilal became the first Saudi Arabian team to reach the Club World Cup showpiece.

However, Ancelotti warned against any complacency from his Madrid players as they chase a first Club World Cup crown since triumphing in Abu Dhabi in 2018.

“We are up against a team that won the semi-final by playing well and deserved to be in the final,” Ancelotti told reporters immediately following the Ahly win. "We have to respect this team. They've got good players and play well collectively. They'll be excited to play in the final and so will we.

“We have to prepare well for the match, provide clear instructions to the players and devise a good game plan. We have players who can handle this type of pressure extremely well.

“Football's changing because there're a lot of teams all over the world that can compete, fight and win too. I was surprised that Flamengo were eliminated, but they're in pre-season and their fitness level isn't at its peak. The rest of the teams, who are in the middle of the season, are at their peak."

Entering the tournament at the semi-final stage, Madrid kept alive their bid for a record-extending eighth Club World Cup thanks to goals from Vinicius Junior, Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Sergio Arribas.

Ali Maaloul struck the lone goal for Al Ahly to at the time reduce the score to 2-1. Madrid could even afford for captain Luka Modric to miss a second-half penalty.

Yet, an annoyed Ancelotti said: "When we were leading 2-0 early, we thought that the game was over and started to dribble a little too much. This is a tournament that Real Madrid have a lot to lose and a nothing to win.

"We thought that the game was won 2-0 and things are not like that; we have relaxed and it cannot be like that. We lowered the intensity and suffered a bit, but in the end we could manage it. We go into the final very motivated.”

Madrid hope to have a number of players back for Saturday's final in Rabat, chief among those star striker Karim Benzema and defender Eder Militao. Both had remained in Madrid to receive treatment for injuries.

"Neither are fully recovered; Karim is quite well but with Militao that are more doubts,” Ancelotti said. "On Friday we will make the decisions. [Dani] Carvajal missed today's match due to a fever and [Marco] Asensio due to a little overload — I think they will be ready for Al Hilal."

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