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."

Real Madrid were fortunate to call upon Toni Kroos for a decade, said Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, after the Germany midfielder bade farewell to a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu.

Veteran Kroos played his final league game for Madrid on Saturday, with a goalless draw against Real Betis hardly befitting of his illustrious time with the LaLiga champions.

The 34-year-old will still have one more appearance to come for Los Blancos in next Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

Yet having played for a final occasion at Madrid's storied home ground, Ancelotti was quick to praise Kroos.

"One of the greatest, obviously," Ancelotti told a press conference. "A very high-quality midfielder, with a fantastic character, with a small ego, very humble and always at the service of the team, very altruistic. What luck to have had him for 10 years.

"To do better than Kroos has done, in this team, is very complicated. He has made a very strong decision [to retire], because nobody could have imagined it, but he has shown a lot of character and to say goodbye like that is great.

"It is the farewell of a great football character and, I repeat, we have been lucky to have him here. Football has enjoyed a great player."

On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

"I can only say thank you to all the Madridismo, to the club, to my team mates, to the stadium," Kroos told reporters after his Madrid farewell.

"I've always felt at home during these 10 years. I couldn't ask for more. They have been 10 unforgettable years.

"I was pretty strong until I saw my children, that moment killed me."

Kroos will end his playing days with the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, where he will hope to guide hosts Germany to glory on home soil.

Toni Kroos bade an emotional farewell to Real Madrid fans at a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu in a 0-0 draw with Real Betis.

One of Madrid's most decorated players, Kroos confirmed this week that he will be retiring after Euro 2024.

That made Saturday's meeting with Betis his final LaLiga match for Madrid, who eased to the title this season and will now look ahead to next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

While that clash at Wembley will be Kroos' last in club football, he was able to say goodbye to the Madrid fans, with the match all about the 34-year-old, with nothing left to be decided in the standings.

Kroos fought back tears as walked onto the pitch through a corridor formed by his team-mates, who were wearing his number eight jersey as the fans held up a giant flag with his face and the words "Thank you, legend" which covered the south stand.

In the 87th minute, Kroos, who saw a free-kick saved by Betis' Fran Vieites, broke down in tears when, after receiving another standing ovation as he was substituted, he embraced his three children who were all crying on the sidelines.

The game was stopped for several minutes as Kroos hugged each of his team-mates, as well as coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Ferland Mendy and Vinicius Junior went closest to breaking the deadlock for Madrid, while Hector Bellerin missed from a free header for Betis and Thibaut Courtois pulled off some fine saves either side of the break.

Data Debrief: Kroosing into retirement

What a career Kroos has had, not only at Madrid, but at Bayern Munich beforehand.

On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

Madrid might be in safe hands with Jude Bellingham, but Kroos will certainly be missed.

Diego Simeone believes Atletico Madrid have fallen short of their objectives this season, but conceded it is difficult to compete with the "best team in the world" in Real Madrid.

Although they are set for a fourth-place finish in LaLiga, Los Rojiblancos are 21 points adrift of Carlo Ancelotti's newly crowned champions. 

Atleti fell to Borussia Dortmund following a 5-4 aggregate defeat in the Champions League quarter-finals, while they were soundly beaten by Athletic Club in the Copa del Rey semi-finals.

And as a third successive trophyless season comes to pass at the Metropolitano Stadium, Simeone admits his side could have done better.

"We have the responsibility to get into the Champions League every year. You can be left out, but you can also be champions," he told reporters ahead of Atletico's final LaLiga game of the campaign against Real Sociedad.

"But with Real Madrid, who are the best team in the world and will continue to be because they have rejuvenated the squad, it is not easy.

"We have to keep working at 120 per cent because 100 per cent is not enough, and 80 per cent is even less to be able to get closer to them, keeping in mind that those below us are also improving.

"We were close to the Copa del Rey final and were expecting to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. We created the illusion of being in a possible final, and we weren't able to do it, so now we have to think about what comes next to improve things.

"I have had players who have allowed me to compete as we have done since I arrived, and a coaching staff where everyone who has walked this path has given maximum effort. There is always room for improvement and growth."

Real Madrid midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni will miss the Champions League final due to a foot injury and could be a doubt for the Euros.

The 24-year-old, who has made 38 appearances across all competitions for the Spanish champions this season, has not played since he suffered a stress fracture during Madrid's Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich earlier this month.

Madrid play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on June 1.

And ahead of Los Blancos' final LaLiga match of the season against Real Betis on Saturday, Ancelotti confirmed the former Monaco star's injury is relatively serious.

"He's doing individual work but he's not ready for the (Champions League) final," Ancelotti told reporters.

"Let's see if he's ready for the Euros."

France coach Didier Deschamps named Tchouameni in his 25-man squad for Euro 2024, which starts on June 14.

Meanwhile, for Madrid, Saturday's match is an opportunity for fans to bid farewell to Toni Kroos, who is retiring after Euro 2024.

The 34-year-old is one of Madrid's most successful players, winning the Champions League four times during his 10-year stint with the club.

Having also won the title once with Bayern Munich, the Germany international could become only the second player after Madrid great Paco Gento to win six European crowns.

"I don't think it was a difficult decision for him. Veteran players, legends, have to choose their destiny. Toni has made that decision and it must be respected," Ancelotti said.

"We have to say goodbye to him as best we can. I respect his decision. Saying goodbye like this would be ideal. Then you have to have the courage to do it and I have a lot of respect for what he has done.

"Replacing someone like this is almost impossible, but this squad has resources in young people so that they take responsibility and follow the path set over the last 10 years."

Runaway LaLiga champions Real Madrid welcome Real Betis for the last game of the domestic season in what was supposed to be just a dress rehearsal ahead of next week's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley.

But the shock retirement announcement of midfielder Toni Kroos on Tuesday suddenly changed the significance of Saturday's clash, which quickly lost that end-of-the-season vibe.

A sold-out crowd will bid farewell to a fan favourite and all-time club great who will play his final game at the stadium after a remarkable decade with the Spanish giants.

Kroos said in a statement on his social media that his last game for Madrid will be next week's Champions League final, adding that he will retire after this year's European Championship on home soil.

Madrid have had little to play for in the last couple of weeks after claiming a record-extending 36th LaLiga title on May 4 and reaching the Champions League final four days later.

Carlo Ancelotti has rested most of his regular starters in the last three league matches but is expected to use the Betis game as a practice run for the Wembley final, with two big question marks in defence.

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois' full recovery from an ACL tear suffered in August has left the Italian with a tricky decision.

Stand-in Andriy Lunin was Real's penalty hero as they beat Manchester City to reach the semi-finals, but Courtois is widely considered one of the best keepers in the world and is likely to regain his starting spot against Dortmund.

The centre-back who will play alongside Antonio Rudiger is Ancelotti's other issue.

He has used holding midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and long-time back-up defender Nacho alongside Rudiger after David Alaba and Eder Militao sustained ACL tears early in the season.

After making a full recovery last month, Militao has struggled to regain top form and, with Tchouameni out with a foot injury sustained against Bayern Munich, Ancelotti is left to decide between the Brazilian and Spaniard Nacho.

Champions Real Madrid have 94 points, 12 ahead of second-placed Barcelona going into the final round of LaLiga matches this season. 

Carlo Ancelotti was unbothered by Real Madrid's failed attempt to defend a three-goal lead against Villarreal, instead focusing on avoiding injuries and keeping their rhythm.

A double from Arda Guler, as well as goals from Joselu and Lucas Vazquez, had Madrid in control at 4-1 up away to Villarreal on Sunday.

Yet Alexander Sorloth, who pulled a goal back earlier on, managed three goals in eight minutes to salvage a 4-4 draw for the hosts against the LaLiga champions.

Despite faltering to a late comeback, Ancelotti was more than pleased with his side's efforts, ahead of the upcoming Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund on June 1 at Wembley Stadium.

"The target was not the points because we don't need them, the target was to play a good game with rhythm, intensity, avoiding injuries. Everything went perfectly," he told a post-match press conference.

"I'm not worried ahead of the Champions League final, this was an open game.

"Maybe we conceded more goals than necessary but that's okay, it doesn't change anything about what the final has to be. In attack, we played well."

Villarreal are set to finish eighth in the LaLiga table, unable to be caught by any team below and incapable of reaching seventh-placed Real Betis.

Sorloth may end with an individual award, though, after scoring his league-leading 23rd goal of the season with the fourth of his quartet of strikes.

"It was a match with a lot of goals, the kind that the fans like," Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno, who provided three assists, told Movistar. 

"I'll take the reaction in the second half. We will try to go to Europe next year.

"I hope Sorloth ends up top scorer. He's a fantastic teammate. He deserves it. We're going to try to help him. He's had an incredible season."

Carlo Ancelotti has backed Toni Kroos for this year's Ballon d'Or if Real Madrid and Germany win the Champions League and Euro 2024 respectively.

With another LaLiga title under their belts, Madrid are into the Champions League final after they overcame Kroos' former club Bayern Munich in the last four.

Borussia Dortmund stand in Los Blancos' way of a record-extending 15th European crown.

And Kroos, who has come out of international retirement in order to boost Germany's Euro 2024 chances, has played a key role in Madrid's success this term.

In fact, he has been so good, that Ancelotti cannot see why the Ballon d'Or would not be a possibility.

"The Ballon d'Or for Kroos? Well, anything can happen," Ancelotti told reporters after Madrid hammered Alaves 5-0 on Tuesday.

"If he wins the Champions League and the Euro. I think he can do a double. Germany can win with Kroos."

Kroos has played 46 times in all competitions for Madrid this season, with only Joselu, Rodrygo and Federico Valverde making more appearances.

The 34-year-old leads Madrid's squad for chances created (85), while he is second for assists (nine) and expected assists (7.6). 

He has attempted 3,257 passes, over 500 more than any of his club-mates, completing 3,083 of them (94.6 per cent).

However, his immediate future is not yet certain, though Ancelotti is not concerned.

"At the moment, we are not worried about what he is going to do, neither am I, nor the club, nor Toni," the Italian added.

"Until June 1, this is a secondary issue. We are now thinking about winning the Champions League."

Madrid now want to make the most of their remaining LaLiga games as they prepare for their showdown with BVB.

"These games are important to maintain the rhythm, the good dynamics, the motivation and the good play. There are two weeks left. Now we'll rest for a few days and next week we'll do some physical work. In the second week we will do tactical work," Ancelotti said.

"For me as a coach, it's the best season. The team has been fantastic, we deservedly won LaLiga. We're on a cloud, but we have to keep going because we haven't played the most important game yet.

"This team has a lot of talent. Very young people with a lot of quality. It has the opportunity to mark an era in the future, given the value of the youngsters we have."

Vinicius Junior scored twice as newly-crowned LaLiga champions Real Madrid thrashed visitors Alaves 5-0 on Tuesday, after the hosts had paraded the trophy in front of the home fans before the game.

Jude Bellingham and Vinicius scored a goal each inside 30 minutes before Federico Valverde put Los Blancos 3-0 up at the break, unleashing an unstoppable shot into the roof of the net in first-half stoppage time.

Vinicius added one more in the 70th minute from a precise cross by Bellingham that the Brazilian fired into the top corner, and substitute Arda Guler completed the scoring with a low finish.

Carlo Ancelotti's side travel to Villarreal on Sunday before hosting Real Betis on May 25 ahead of their Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund on June 1.

Having thrashed Granada 4-0 on Saturday and Cadiz 3-0, either side of their Champions League semi-final victory over Bayern, Real are firing on all fronts heading into the Wembley Stadium showpiece.

Meanwhile, Alavez remain 11th in the table heading into their next game against Getafe at home on Saturday.

Data Debrief: Madrid capitalise on opportunities

Madrid found the back of the net five times from just 2.47 expected goals (xG), suggesting Los Blancos' finishing quality was far greater than Alaves' 1.28 xG.

Ancelotti's side have now kept 20 clean sheets in 36 LaLiga games this campaign, their most in a single season in the competition's history (19 in the 1986-87, 1987-88 and 2019-20 seasons).

Real Madrid have already secured their 36th LaLiga title but head coach Carlo Ancelotti is keen to make the most of the remaining games in the build-up to next month's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund.

Madrid are attempting to win a third trophy this season, having also lifted the Supercopa de Espana in January, and Ancelotti says Tuesday's home match against mid-table Alaves will be a big part of their preparations.

"We have to take advantage of these games in order to build some momentum," Ancelotti told reporters on Monday following Madrid's 4-0 victory at Granada on Saturday.

"Those who were rested against Granada will play tomorrow. We'll use it to get into a rhythm and good motivation ... the aim is for the whole squad to be at full strength."

Ancelotti said the matches will give players like goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and defender Eder Militao, who have recently returned from long-term injuries, game time before the June 1 final.

"[Militao] needs to play more minutes. He's progressing very well, he's getting better every game. Hopefully, he can be at his best for the final," added the Italian. "We'll make the necessary decisions the week before the final."

Madrid are unbeaten in all competitions since January and have 90 points from 35 LaLiga games, 15 more than second-placed Girona with three league matches left.

"After the game against Alaves I'm going to give them three days' rest," Ancelotti added. "We'll then have two weeks to prepare well for the final, but the team needs to rest after such a demanding season."

Arda Guler was once again on target for Real Madrid against Granada and an excited Carlo Ancelotti believes Los Blancos can expect more to come from the teenager.

Chances to impress in a first-team environment have been limited for Guler, who chose Madrid over Barcelona to join from Fenerbahce last July, owing to the quality of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Yet the Turkey youngster has scored twice in his last three LaLiga starts, finding the net in Saturday's 4-0 thrashing of Granada after also striking against Real Sociedad on April 26.

"We still don't know what his potential is because he is very young," the Madrid head coach said of Guler.

"But he is showing incredible talent, he is very effective in front of goal and has speed.

"I don't know what his ceiling is, today it is difficult to say, but he has natural talent and he's doing very well."

Brahim Diaz has also had to settle for a backup role in the Spanish capital but scored twice in the hammering of Granada, as well as a goal for Fran Garcia.

Ancelotti heaped praise on his much-changed Madrid side as the newly-crowned LaLiga champions impressed after reaching the Champions League final in midweek with their win over Bayern Munich.

"Well… it's hard to say who surprised me the most," Ancelotti said after resting the likes of Jude Bellingham, Vinicius and Rodrygo in 10 changes for Saturday's victory.

"Among those who returned, Brahim earned an important role, but I don't want to forget Joselu or Fran Garcia, who arrived this year and did really well.

"Fran in the first period and the others, in terms of goals, were fundamental to having this level at this moment of the season."

Madrid host Alaves and Real Betis either side of a trip to Villarreal to end their league season, before the Champions League final with Borussia Dortmund on June 1 at Wembley Stadium.

Real Madrid swept aside already relegated Granada in LaLiga on Saturday but Los Blancos attacker Brahim Diaz says all focus is on lifting the Champions League.

Diaz was twice on target as Madrid eased to a 4-0 away victory, with Fran Garcia and Arda Guler also finding the net for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

Madrid had already been crowned LaLiga champions last weekend before edging through their Champions League semi-final clash with Bayern Munich in midweek.

The Spanish giants meet Borussia Dortmund in UEFA's showpiece at Wembley Stadium on June 1 – and the Champions League trophy was on Diaz's mind after defeating Granada.

"We all wanted to show that we want to get maximum points in the league. I'm very happy with the goals," Diaz told RMTV.

"I reached 12 goals and seven assists. It's very easy to play here, with these team-mates.

"The most important thing is the titles. We already have the [Spanish] Super Cup, the league and we want the Champions League."

Granada remain in 19th place with 21 points, while 15th-placed Mallorca's victory over Las Palmas earlier in the day confirmed their relegation after just one season in the top flight.

"You could have expected it, of course, but when Mallorca wins it becomes mathematical and getting relegated, it's one of the most complicated games we've ever played," Granada's Carlos Neva told DAZN.

"I told my team-mates that we should finish fighting, with our heads held high. We should enjoy the top flight, because we don't know if we'll ever play in it again."

Madrid head coach Ancelotti, meanwhile, had words of encouragement for the relegated side.

"In sport you have to look at defeat too, it has to be an opportunity to do better in the future," the Italian told his post-match press conference.

"Granada is an important club and they will try everything to get promoted next season and they have the chance to do it."

Vinicius Jr's dazzling performances at Real Madrid have put the Brazil forward in the conversation to win his first Ballon d'Or and head coach Carlo Ancelotti feels the 23-year-old deserved to win the prestigious award.

Vinicius has netted five times and provided as many assists in the Champions League alone this season to help Madrid book a place in the final, while also scoring 13 goals in LaLiga, which they clinched for a record-extending 36th time last weekend.

The record 14-time European champions will take on German side Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final at Wembley on June 1.

"He's doing a great job," Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Saturday's league trip to relegation-threatened Granada.

"He's still got the Champions League final to come and then he'll be at the Copa America.

"He's very close, and if he has positive results in both competitions, he could well win it [the Ballon d'Or].

"Before I came to coach Madrid, I saw Vinicius on TV and I thought what an incredibly talented player he looked.

"When I arrived here, that much was clear, and he's improved on many things to enhance that talent.

"He's better at evading his markers now and has improved in front of goal as well. He's done so with a spectacular work ethic on a daily basis, he's focused in training and recovers well after matches.

"He's a highly disciplined professional and he deserves everything he's achieved."

But Ancelotti said the rest of his squad have been just as important in a campaign where several key players at Madrid have suffered injuries.

Vinicius moved to the Santiago Bernabeu from Brazil's Flamengo in 2018.

"He's among the best in the world and this is Vinicius' moment because he brings us so much. He's been important in us making the Champions League final and winning LaLiga. But we mustn't forget how the others have contributed," the Italian said.

French defensive midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni is a doubt for the final after picking up an injury in their semi-final win over Bayern Munich on Wednesday.

"[Goalkeeper] Thibaut Courtois will play, as will Eder Militao. They both need the game time. Andriy Lunin has to be ready to play as well. That's why I'll have to assess the goalkeeping issue in the coming games," Ancelotti said on team rotation.

"We're not sure if Tchouameni will make it for the final but we'll do all we can to see if he can recover. The rest will rotate, including Antonio Rudiger and Nacho."

Carlo Ancelotti saluted Joselu after the striker climbed off the bench and scored twice against Bayern Munich to send Real Madrid through to their 18th Champions League final.

Following Alphonso Davies' earlier strike at Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid trailed Bayern 1-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate when Joselu replaced Federico Valverde with nine minutes of their pulsating semi-final tie remaining.

The 33-year-old, who is on loan from second-tier Espanyol, turned the tie on its head with two dramatic late goals.

First, he pounced on a rare mistake by Bayern keeper Manuel Neuer to stab in an 88th-minute equaliser, before volleying home Antonio Rudiger's cross in the first minute of stoppage time.

This was Joselu's eighth substitute appearance in this season's Champions League and Ancelotti praised the professionalism of his striker, who has now netted 17 times across all competitions, despite spending much of the campaign on the bench.

"He's a player who's contributed a lot this season, even if he hasn't played many minutes," the Italian said. 

"But he's the perfect reflection of what this squad is: players who contribute a lot without losing confidence [if they're not playing] and the idea that they can offer the team something."

Ancelotti, whose side will play Borussia Dortmund in his sixth Champions League final as a manager on June 1, also hailed the character demonstrated by his players during another "magical" Madrid performance.

"It's happened so many times now, it's something inexplicable," he added. "It's happened again [thanks to] fans that push [us], a fantastic atmosphere and players who never stop believing that they can do it. It's something magical, there's no explanation for it."

 

Joselu was the hero for Real Madrid as he scored twice off the bench to send them through to the Champions League final.

The Spaniard’s late brace secured Madrid’s comeback after Alphonso Davies had given the German side the lead, securing a 2-1 victory on the night, and a 4-3 win on aggregate to set up a meeting with Borussia Dortmund on June 1. 

With only 10 minutes plus stoppage time to make an impact, Joselu made his time on the pitch count.

He scored with both his shots, becoming the oldest substitute to score a brace in a knockout game in the Champions League.

The forward is Madrid’s highest scorer in the competition this season with five goals, netting three of those after coming off the bench.  

It is also the second time he has scored a double against a German team in the Champions League this campaign, getting his other against Union Berlin in the group stages.

Bayern were left to rue a late lapse in concentration that saw them concede twice in the space of two minutes and 44 seconds.

After Davies, who has been heavily linked with Los Blancos, became the first Canadian player to score in the knockout stages of the Champions League, with what was his maiden goal in the competition, it was a mistake that led to Madrid's equaliser.

It is the first time since April 2021 against Paris Saint-Germain that Manuel Neuer made an error leading to an opposition goal in the competition.

Bayern have now lost 11 Champions League matches against Madrid, the most one side has lost against another in the competition’s history.

It was always going to be a tough game for Thomas Tuchel’s side even after taking the lead – Madrid have won four matches despite conceding first in the Champions League this season, the most by a side in a single campaign since they won the trophy in 2016-17 (five).

Los Blancos have reached an 18th final in the European Cup/Champions League, but this is the first time they will play the showcase game at Wembley or in England altogether.

Meanwhile, Carlo Ancelotti has reached his sixth Champions League final, two more than any other coach in the history of the competition. 

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