'It's a week to enjoy', Ancelotti insists ahead of Champions League final

By Sports Desk May 27, 2024

Carlo Ancelotti encouraged Real Madrid to enjoy the build-up to this weekend's Champions League final, when Los Blancos will battle Borussia Dortmund for the title.

Madrid are seeking a record-extending 15th triumph in Europe's premier club competition, having seen off the likes of Manchester City and Bayern Munich to reach the showpiece at Wembley.

Ancelotti knows the drill inside out. This is his ninth final overall and sixth as a coach, winning four of the previous five (two with Milan, two with Madrid). 

Although, the Italian knows he and his players cannot underestimate Dortmund, who have defeated Atletico Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain to reach their third final.

"It is a week to enjoy," he told reporters on Monday. "The challenge, the opponent. We're going to enjoy it until Friday.

"Reaching a final is always a success. As for being favourites, we don't think about that. We have to play against a team that has done very well. They have shown commitment and attitude.

"The build-up to the big game is always the same, happiness and then worry. The fear will come, but before it does, I'm going to enjoy it.

"The cold sweat comes on Saturday afternoon. It's quite normal, it comes every match and I have experience. I have a lot of confidence in my team. They are in Champions League mode."

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    Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas believes the European champions have brought in someone special with the signing of Kylian Mbappe.

    France star Mbappe announced he was leaving Paris Saint-Germain in May before making the move to Madrid earlier this month, ending a years-long transfer saga involving the two teams and the striker.

    The 25-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the winners of LaLiga, who he will join as a free agent in July after his contract with PSG expires, with Brazil sensation Endrick also set to arrive in the Spanish capital.

    With Mbappe joining a side containing a wealth of talent already, which recently captured the Champions League, Casillas is impressed by the squad that Madrid have put together.

    "Mbappe is a very good player," Casillas said. "Everyone wants to have him; anyone would have him in their respective team.

    "Real Madrid have a brilliant president and brilliant people around them. Forming a team like this is something impressive.

    "You can learn a little from the past and in that sense give some continuity to the team as a great club with great players.

    "Real Madrid has them. We will see how they continue to mesh and how they can continue giving joy to the fans."

    Mbappe was tipped to be one of the most influential players at Euro 2024, but his tournament looked in danger of ending early when he suffered a broken nose in France’s opening game against Austria.

    "With Mbappe out, France may suffer a little," two-time Euros champion Casillas added, with Mbappe's status for France's next matches uncertain.

    "But France have a team with very good players and there has been a bit of a revolution by Didier Deschamps.

    "So France can certainly still be a contender and get to the final of the Euros, but we now must see if France can play as well without him."

    Spain are the only team to win back-to-back editions of the European Championships, with Casillas captaining the side in both 2008 and 2012, while also leading them to World Cup glory in 2010.

    This year, Spain have a more youthful look to the squad, with Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest-ever player to appear at the Euros at 16 years and 338 days old.

    The teenager got an assist in Spain’s 3-0 win over Croatia in their first match of the tournament, and Casillas is pleased to see Luis de la Fuente giving young players a chance on the big stage.

    He said: "It is good to see that young players continue to emerge in football in Spain and are being considered stars of the future. It is good for the entire team.

    "Only [Yamal] can prove if he will be a great player - solely and exclusively, him, and of course, the trust and effort that goes in.

    "Let's see, with the confidence and maturity he has, plus the other team-mates who will support him, if he can become a very good player for Spain.

    "We know that the strength of the team comes from the depth and we need to continue having these players emerge."
     

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    Having led Dortmund to the Champions League final earlier this month, when they were beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid at Wembley Stadium, Terzic surprisingly resigned on Thursday.

    The 41-year-old – who was in his second spell in charge – had previously overseen a second-placed Bundesliga finish in 2022-23, when a final-day draw with Mainz allowed rivals Bayern Munich to snatch the title.

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    Sahin became Antalyaspor boss at just 32 years of age in 2021, having previously represented them as a player. 

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    Earlier on Friday, Dortmund also confirmed veteran centre-back Mats Hummels was leaving the club, having made 508 appearances across two spells totalling 13 years at Signal Iduna Park.

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    Borussia Dortmund have confirmed the departure of Mats Hummels after a combined 13-and-a-half years at the club.

    Hummels initially joined on loan from Bayern Munich in January 2008 and went on to make 508 appearances across two spells with Dortmund, who he left in 2016 before returning three years later.

    The decorated defender won back-to-back Bundesliga titles with the Black and Yellow in 2010-11 and 2011-12, while also helping them reach two Champions League finals.

    The latter of these came earlier this month when Edin Terzic's side were beaten 2-0 by Real Madrid at Wembley.

    During his second spell, Hummels made 367 Bundesliga appearances - 343 of which were starts - with Dortmund winning 216 of those and keeping 108 clean sheets along the way.

    The decorated defender, who also won three Bundesliga titles with Bayern as well as the 2014 World Cup with Germany, is the club's second significant departure in as many days, with head coach Terzic resigning on Thursday.

    "It was a huge honour and pleasure for me to have played for BVB for so long and to have been part of the journey from 13th place in January 2008 to what Borussia Dortmund is today," he told the club's official website.

    "This club with its fans is something very special - and for me, much more than that. I would also like to thank all the BVB employees who do great work for this club and, of course, the countless great coaches and fantastic team-mates I have been able to experience here.

    "I'll be cheering from afar and hopefully in the stadium, from time to time. I will miss you."

    "In Mats Hummels, we are undoubtedly losing an outstanding personality, perhaps one of the last of his kind in football," sporting director Sebastian Kehl added.

    "Mats has not only shaped BVB during his career, but has also taken the centre-back game to a new level worldwide. In addition, Mats is a real guy who challenges himself and others at all times.

    "I thank Mats for his passion, for his will to succeed, also for his rough edges. Everyone at BVB wishes him all the best for his sporting and private future. Personally, I will always remain connected to Mats, whom I have held in high esteem for many, many years."

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