Football: Real stumble not down to fatigue, Ancelotti says

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti (above) has dismissed suggestions that the world and European champions' recent stumble is a result of the physical toll a packed calendar may have taken on his players. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti (above) has dismissed suggestions that the world and European champions' recent stumble is a result of the physical toll a packed calendar may have taken on his players. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MADRID (REUTERS) - Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti has dismissed suggestions that the world and European champions' recent stumble is a result of the physical toll a packed calendar may have taken on his players.

Real set a Spanish record for consecutive victories of 22 games in all competitions at the end of last year, including their triumphant trip to Morocco for the Club World Cup, but have lost two and drawn one of four matches in January.

Thursday's 2-2 stalemate at home to Atletico Madrid ended their hopes of a second straight King's Cup triumph, with Ancelotti's men eliminated 4-2 on aggregate following a 2-0 reverse at their city rivals the previous week.

Ancelotti said Real's Cup exit, which he blamed on uncharacteristic defensive errors, could be a blessing in disguise as they will have more time off than their closest rivals over the next few weeks.

Barca and Atletico meet in the Cup quarter-finals, with the first leg on Wednesday at the Nou Camp and the return a week later at the Calderon.

"The team is in good shape," Ancelotti told a news conference previewing the leaders' La Liga game at Getafe on Sunday.

"We will make the most of these three weeks to improve physical condition," the Italian said, adding that he had no need to rotate his squad to give some players a rest.

"Rotating players is not indispensable. It is important if you want to switch out a player who is tired but I don't see that anyone is tired.

"I have not detected any problem with either attitude or with fatigue."

Real, who have a game in hand, are a point clear of second-placed Barcelona with around half the La Liga season played, with champions Atletico three points further adrift in third.

Atletico host bottom side Granada and Barca play at Deportivo La Coruna on Sunday.