MADRID (AFP) - Carlo Ancelotti delivered a reality check to Eden Hazard on Tuesday (Oct 26) by saying the Belgian is being left out of Real Madrid's starting line-up because he "prefers other players".
Hazard has endured a nightmare two years riddled with injuries since joining from Chelsea for €100 million (S$150 million) and he stayed on the bench during Madrid's 2-1 win over Barcelona at Camp Nou on Sunday.
The 30-year-old has only started four La Liga games this season under Ancelotti, with an unknown muscle injury the latest fitness issue to rule him out of action earlier this month.
Ancelotti says Hazard is now available again but the likes of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo are being picked on merit.
"He has absolutely everything," said Ancelotti, ahead of Madrid's game against Osasuna on Wednesday.
"But he has to put up with it. He's not playing but he has all the characteristics of a Real Madrid player - quality and motivation - but there are times when the coach prefers other players.
"He can play. But the coach in this moment prefers other players. The important thing is he is motivated to work and to play. He is doing that and his time will come."
Ancelotti said Gareth Bale has returned to light training after recovering from a hamstring injury and that the Welshman could play for Real Madrid in the last game before the international break on Nov 6.
"He was medically cleared yesterday after a test," said Ancelotti.
"He has started to work individually and next week he will be able to train with the team. The only game before the break that I can see him playing is the game against Rayo (Vallecano)."
With Bale and Hazard each lacking fitness and form, Vinicius has stepped up, the Brazilian starring in the victory against Barcelona and finding a new level under Ancelotti.
"What I like most about him is his intensity," Ancelotti said.
"He has a lot of quality but he also works hard. He has that change of pace. He has to improve without the ball but he can do that because he is a humble footballer.
"He is young and just lacks a bit of experience in some moments. He can get distracted by the fans and has to be focused on the game, not on what is going on around him."
Real Madrid are second in La Liga, a point behind Real Sociedad with a game in hand. Osasuna have enjoyed a strong start and sit sixth.