Thursday 26 April 2018

Big names return for Madrid Euro derby

Cristiano Ronaldo goes through his stretching routine in Madrid prior to Real's clash against local rivals Atletico tonight
Cristiano Ronaldo goes through his stretching routine in Madrid prior to Real's clash against local rivals Atletico tonight

Jamie Holland

Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale is fit for tonight's Champions League quarter-final showdown at Atletico Madrid after sitting out Saturday's La Liga win at home to Eibar, according to Carlo Ancelotti.

There was a question mark over Bale's availability for the first-leg clash at the Calderon but Real's world record signing is "100pc" fit and has been called up along with every other member of the squad, Ancelotti told a news conference.

The Welshman has been in patchy form this term after an impressive debut season in Spain, when he scored in Real's Champions League final win over Atletico and netted a memorable winner to beat Barcelona in the King's Cup final.

Ancelotti said he was sure Bale, who has been whistled by some fans at the Bernabeu stadium, would perform in the final weeks of the campaign, with Real seeking a record-extending 11th European crown and closing in on leaders Barca in La Liga.

"I have the good fortune to be able to count on everyone for such an important game," Ancelotti said. "Bale had a fantastic season last term and scored in both finals," the Italian added.

"We hope to play more finals over the coming months and he will be important, like last year. We have to use our individual quality and all our weapons to play a game with speed and pace in attack."

Real must end a woeful recent run against their city rivals to reach the last four of Europe's elite club competition.

They have met six times this term, with Atletico triumphing over two legs to lift the Spanish Super Cup, twice winning in La Liga, including a 4-0 drubbing at the Calderon In February, and knocking them out of the King's Cup, also over two legs.

"We come into this match in good shape," Ancelotti said."It's nothing like February. We're fresh and we can play with intensity and at a high tempo.

"Personality and courage are very important and this team has that. I'd like to see a team that has control over the play and that competes throughout the whole match."

For their part, Atletico also welcome back one of their big names with Croatia forward Mario Mandzukic having recovered from injury.

Mandzukic, who has netted five goals in eight appearances in Europe this season, has had an ankle problem for several weeks and was replaced in the starting line-up by Fernando Torres for Atletico's last two La Liga games.


Torres will likely start on the bench, with Mandzukic partnering in-form France forward Antoine Griezmann, who struck twice in Saturday's 2-2 La Liga draw at Malaga, in attack.

The showpiece in Lisbon was the first time teams from the same city had contested the European Cup final in the competition's 59-year history.

Simeone said he and his players were solely focused on tonight's game and would not be distracted by previous clashes.

"I am not winding back the clock and looking at past games because it will be a new and different match, part of a quarter-final tie, which is not the same as a Champions League final," Simeone said.

"We will be facing a great opponent on a great run of form in the domestic league and who are performing strongly in the Champions League," added the Argentine.

The return leg is at Real's Bernabeu stadium on April 22.

Atletico Madrid v Real Madrid live, TV3/ITV, 7.45

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport