Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas has been backed to take motivation from fans’ jeers as Los Blancos prepare for tonight’s Champions League semi-final clash against Juventus.
Sections of the Santiago Bernabeu support appeared to be unhappy with Casillas’ role during Saturday’s 2-2 draw against Valencia, where Real needed two goals in the second half to earn a point. Indeed, it was the third straight time Madrid had conceded two in a game, following a 3-2 win over Sevilla and the 2-1 defeat to Juventus in the semi-final first leg in Turin.
Unsurprisingly perhaps Casillas had, according to reports in Spain, appeared frustrated with the crowd reaction during the Valencia game but Real head coach Carlo Ancelotti is confident his number one will bounce back superbly in what will be his 150th Champions League appearance.
At a press conference for the semi-final second leg, the Italian said: “Casillas has a great amount of experience; he’s used to this kind of thing and it doesn’t affect him. In fact, I think it motivates him.
“I’ve said before, sometimes I understand it (jeers) because the players don’t play well. Sometimes you understand it. But I think tomorrow will be different.
“All Madrid fans understand when it’s an important game. Many times in the past they’ve really got behind us, as they did against Atletico (Madrid) and last year in the semi-final they really got behind us, and I’m sure they’ll do so again.”
Madrid will continue to be without Luka Modric but Ancelotti confirmed Karim Benzema will feature at some point as the defending champions seek a return to winning ways at home in the Champions League after their 11-match streak was ended by Schalke in March.
“Benzema is fine,” Ancelotti said. “He’s 100 per cent fit. He needed a little more time to recover but he’s ready.
“He could play from the start or he could come on later on. Chicarito (Javier Hernandez) gives us different options but Benzema helps the whole team play better.
“In recent games, in the game against Valencia and Sevilla, the team played very well... but lacked concentration in details and this is the type of thing we must avoid doing. We must be focused throughout the whole game to avoid these problems. We need to play with greater intensity than in the first leg.”
Ancelotti insists Gareth Bale has no intention of leaving the club amid suggestions the Wales international is frustrated by how things are going for him at the Spanish giants.
Bale has come under fire from sections of the media and also the Real fans for some of his performances this season, including in the wake of last week’s semi-final first leg defeat by Juve. That has led to Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett coming out in defence of his client, claiming that the former Spurs player has yet to show his full potential this term because he has not been given enough of the ball by his Real team-mates.
As more speculation links Bale with a summer move Barnett’s comments again bring into question the world-record signing’s desire to continue in Spain. However, Ancelotti said: “I spoke with him (Bale) a lot of times. He is really happy to stay here. I don’t understand what his agent said. It could be better to not speak. But we are used to it, in this world (where) a lot of people speak and sometimes, speak too much.”
Meanwhile, Juventus midfielder Paul Pogba could also be in line for an appearance after he made a goalscoring return from a two-month injury lay-off to earn a 1-1 draw against Cagliari on Saturday.
A fourth-straight Serie A title was wrapped up in early May, meaning the Bianconeri’s full focus will be on tonight’s second leg, as opposed to Madrid who are still chasing Barcelona in the La Liga table.
Tonight will also see a return to Madrid of Alvaro Morata, who scored against his former club in the first leg. But when asked if there were any ill feelings from his Bernabeu exit last summer, the Spaniard was quoted as saying: “I do not have (a grudge) against anyone.”