Football: Ancelotti and players get vote of confidence from Real president Perez

MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid president Florentino Perez called a surprise news conference on Thursday to express his support for Carlo Ancelotti and his players and firmly deny a report the Italian coach was facing the sack.

The world and European champions have lost their last two matches and are without a win in three. They surrendered top spot in La Liga to Barcelona last weekend after a 1-0 reverse at Athletic Bilbao.

They followed up with a 4-3 Champions League defeat at home to Schalke 04 on Tuesday, squeaking through to the quarter-finals 5-4 on aggregate, and were roundly booed by fans.

Barca host Real on March 22 and Spanish sports daily Marca reported on Thursday that a loss at the Nou Camp would prompt Perez to sack Ancelotti, who has a contract until the end of next season.

"To use the fact that we are not on our best form at the moment to report information that is not true is unacceptable," Perez told reporters.

"I want to state categorically that the club has full confidence in our coach and in our players. And I want to say, contrary to a report published today, that whatever happens in the coming days and weeks, Carlo Ancelotti will remain the coach of Real Madrid."

Perez also expressed support for Real winger Gareth Bale and goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who are struggling for form and have been the main targets of fan ire.

"Gareth Bale is one of the best players in the world," Perez said.

"The biggest clubs fought and continue to fight to secure his services. The only thing I can say is that we shouldn't forget what he was able to achieve in his first year at Real Madrid."