Pitchside Europe

Ancelotti allows Madrid to dream of ‘decima’

When Real Madrid president Florentino Perez showed Vicente del Bosque the door in 2003 he could scarcely have imagined he would still be chasing a 10th European crown more than a decade later.

During two stints at the helm of the world's richest club, construction magnate Perez has been through seven coaches since Del Bosque was discarded but in Carlo Ancelotti he may finally have found the man who can secure the 'decima' that has eluded Real since their last Champions League triumph in 2002.

They began the season shakily under the Italian, who replaced Portuguese Jose Mourinho at the end of last term, but he has gradually moulded his expensively assembled squad into a formidable force with a mean defence and one of the most lethal attacks in football.

Wednesday's 6-1 romp at Schalke 04 showcased the talents of the forward trio known collectively as 'BBC' - Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo - with each scoring twice as Real totally overwhelmed the hapless Bundesliga side to practically ensure their place in the quarter-finals.

"It was the perfect match," Ancelotti, who won the Champions League with AC Milan twice as a player and twice as a coach, said at a news conference after the last 16, first leg in Gelsenkirchen.

"We played a very good game as we scored two early goals and then things opened up for us," the 54-year-old added. "We made the most of the counter attack and the speed of our forwards."

Returning to action after serving a three-match ban in La Liga, Ronaldo took his goals tally in Europe's elite club competition this season to 11.

With the Portugal forward and FIFA Ballon d'Or winner on such scintillating form and ably supported by Wales winger Bale and France striker Benzema it is hard to see how any team can stop Real from scoring.

"The three forwards scored and helped the team a lot, they are very dangerous in attack," Ancelotti said.

"Cristiano doesn't surprise me. He was really up for the game following his ban. He prepared very well for this game and played very well.

"Benzema's performance was very good, not only for the goals but because he helped the team in holding on to the ball and also made assists.

"It could have been Bale's best game of the season because he had more confidence and attacked very well in the deep areas."

Real have a few days rest before they take on Atletico Madrid in Sunday's La Liga derby and victory would put them six points clear of their city rivals with 12 games left.

Champions Barcelona are also three points behind leaders Real and host promoted Almeria in Sunday's late game. Real's return match at home to Schalke is on March 18.

"It's true that we have a big advantage but we still have to play the second leg," Ancelotti said.

"We have to show respect to Schalke, to the fans and to the competition. We will play as well as we can in the return."

Reuters