Football: Real Madrid ready to restore pride against PSG, Ancelotti says

Real Madrid's head coach Carlo Ancelotti (centre) celebrates with Luka Modric (left) during the Spanish LaLiga soccer match against Real Sociedad in Madrid, Spain, on March 5, 2022. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID (AFP, REUTERS) Carlo Ancelotti, 62, has been around long enough to know these are the games that really matter at Real Madrid.

Wednesday's (March 9) Champions League last-16, second-leg home clash against Paris Saint-Germain, who lead 1-0, will carry greater significance for Real president Florentino Perez than any of their other 39 fixtures so far this term.

In 2018, Real finished almost 20 points behind Barcelona in La Liga but Zinedine Zidane was still hailed as a genius after he marched his team past four European heavyweights in the knockout stage - PSG, Juventus, Bayern Munich and, in the final, Liverpool.

If success in Europe can excuse domestic failure at Real, the reverse is also true. But winning La Liga this season may not be enough to prevent questions asked about the direction of the club if it is PSG celebrating on Wednesday.

Real coach Ancelotti yesterday declared his team had played their worst game of the season in Paris but were ready to right the wrongs of that night, when Kylian Mbappe scored the winner in added time.

As the record 13-time European Cup winners, the hosts are keen to display their pedigree at home and show that the defeat a fortnight ago was an aberration.

"We are a very proud team and that performance hurt us pretty bad," Ancelotti said. "We are a proud team, mainly in a competition like the Champions League.

"So we will play for pride. We saw the best version of PSG in Paris. I wish to see the best version of Real Madrid on Wednesday."

Ancelotti's side will be buoyed by their 4-1 La Liga win over Real Sociedad on Saturday, having conceded an early goal, and believe they are more than capable of overhauling a one-goal deficit.

"Our team is calm and motivated. The mental aspect is crucial in a moment like this. If we play with Saturday's intensity, we have a good chance to qualify," he said.

"We have to be smart and play smart. We don't need to score many goals. We need to keep it together and the support of our fans will be major for us."

Mbappe, who has been linked with a move to the Spanish leaders in summer as a free agent, is a doubt for the match after he was hurt in training on Monday.

He was named in the French Ligue 1 leaders' travelling list yesterday but the club website stated a "further assessment" would be carried out on his fitness in Spain.

Should Mbappe not make it, that would hand Ancelotti's side the advantage but the Italian has, nevertheless, set his side up to deal with the pacy forward.

"We will prepare for the game as if Mbappe would play. That's the only way we can do it," he added.

Real have not won the Champions League since 2018 but PSG's European drought goes back much further - they have never won the competition, a demand their Qatari owners have set since taking over in 2011.

They made it to the final two years ago, only to fall to Bayern Munich, and that unfinished business is what drives Marco Verratti .

The Euro 2020 winner with Italy told the club website: "We all know we have a goal, and we give our all to reach it... we are getting closer.

"It's not easy to achieve in this competition where you play great teams. We need to be at 100 per cent. Then we can leave the pitch with our heads held high."

Ancelotti will be without suspended duo Casemiro and Ferland Mendy, while PSG travelled without Ander Herrera, Layvin Kurzawa and Juan Bernat.

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