Mauricio Pochettino acknowledged patience is key for his next managerial opportunity amid previous links to Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Former Paris Saint-Germain coach Pochettino was dismissed from the French capital in July 2022 after failing to deliver Champions League glory with a squad assembled purely for that goal.

Lionel Messi moved to Paris ahead of the 2021-22 season, along with Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Achraf Hakimi, though an abundance of world-class talent crashed out in the last 16 to Madrid.

Pochettino has subsequently been linked to a move to Los Blancos, once Carlo Ancelotti departs, or to United, who preferred Erik ten Hag when the pair were both linked to the Old Trafford role.

When asked by Marca about joining either of those sides in future, the Argentine said: "Soccer is 'timing'. These are the moments for it to coincide and for that marriage to happen. 

"Sometimes it's just a question of time. I don't believe in trains passing only once. I think that sometimes you have to have the necessary patience and you have to know how to wait."

 

The former Southampton and Tottenham boss has previously expressed a subtle interest in managing England should Gareth Southgate leave after the World Cup in Qatar, which starts on Sunday.

Pochettino has a wealth of experience, despite only winning two major trophies – Ligue 1 and the Coupe de France with PSG – though he believes "timing" is everything in football.

"The 'timing' is handled by football, it is true that my name has always been associated with big clubs," he added.

"I have a lot of respect for professionals and it's hard for me to sell myself, that's work for you."

Time away from managing has afforded room for reflection from Pochettino, though he insists he would never re-think his previous decision-making with the likes of PSG and Tottenham.

"It is a good stage to capitalise on all those experiences and have a vision from another place," he continued.

"We always try to have external visions, from the analysis, above all so as not to take things personally and that this external vision has a context. 

"This analysis means that now time does not make us rethink decision-making, it helps us to be better."

Carlo Ancelotti lamented Real Madrid's late showing for inviting "unnecessary suffering" in what should have been a more comfortable victory over Cadiz.

Madrid will head into November's World Cup break trailing LaLiga leaders Barcelona by two points after overcoming Cadiz 2-1 on Thursday.

Eder Militao's second goal in as many games and a thunderous Toni Kroos volley seemingly had Madrid cruising to victory, before Lucas Perez's 81st-minute strike ensured a nervy ending at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ancelotti acknowledged there were a lot of positives to take from Madrid's first victory in three league games, though the Blancos coach was frustrated to see his side concede late on.

"Yes, we played very well until 2-1. We were able to score 3-0 with [Luka] Modric, who had an easy chance," the Italian told DAZN. 

"Then it's normal. It was unnecessary suffering. Three deserved points and we finished well [before the World Cup]."

Modric, who will aim for World Cup glory with Croatia in Qatar, missed a gilt-edged chance at 2-0 up as he fired wide of an open goal following Vinicius Junior's offload.

The failure in front of goal did not come back to haunt Madrid, allowing Ancelotti to joke about the miss, saying: "I've told him Croatia have already given him the call-up, so he won't have a problem."

Cadiz attempted to ruffle Madrid feathers by imposing their physical presence, leading to six yellow cards being shown in an ill-tempered clash.

Vinicius voiced his displeasure in the first half after team-mate Rodrygo and centre-back Fali clashed off the ball, with Ancelotti stunned by the lack of retrospective VAR action.

"Yes, they told me that [Fali] punched [Rodrygo]. I saw a video and it seemed like an attack to me," Ancelotti said of the altercation where Fali appeared to elbow the Madrid attacker.

The Cadiz defender suggested he may have let the heat of the moment get to him, too.

"In the end it's true that I did hit him. He says it's an elbow and I say no," Fali said. "I try to stop him and try to grab him. The VAR sees it and gives me a yellow card. 

"In this action maybe, I went a little too far. It is not to hurt him. The still image seems to be more than it is. I try to grab his head. He says that I elbowed him, and tell him I did not."

Madrid will not be in action until a trip to Real Valladolid on December 31 after the break for the World Cup.

Toni Kroos scored a superb volley and assisted another goal as Real Madrid moved within two points of LaLiga leaders Barcelona by beating Cadiz 2-1 in their final match before the World Cup break.

Carlo Ancelotti's side suffered their first loss of the top-flight season at Rayo Vallecano on Monday, but returned to winning ways with a much-improved showing at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Eder Militao opened the scoring with a first-half header from Kroos' cross on Thursday, marking the centre-back's second goal in as many league games.

Kroos' emphatic second-half strike meant Lucas Perez's late goal proved irrelevant as Madrid closed the gap on Barca.

Alfonso Espino offered Madrid an early scare as his long-range strike clipped the top of the crossbar, before Federico Valverde fired narrowly wide at the other end.

A frenetic first half continued with tempers flaring for both sides before Militao headed Toni Kroos' left-wing cross into the bottom-right corner five minutes before half-time.

Thibaut Courtois thwarted Ruben Sobrino from a rare Cadiz chance after the interval, before Kroos powered into the bottom-left corner stylishly from the edge of the area. 

Luka Modric inexplicably missed an open goal to add a late third and was punished as Perez pounced on a spilled Courtois save, though Madrid held on for victory.

What does it mean? Los Blancos back on track

Madrid were a shadow of their usual high standards in their last two league outings and faced a three-match winless LaLiga run for the first time in two years – under Zinedine Zidane.

However, Ancelotti's side bounced back to record just their second victory in five league games against Cadiz, who have won just three of their 38 top-flight visits to Madrid (D5 L30).

With the World Cup now taking centre stage, Ancelotti will be delighted to head into the break with victory before Madrid reconvene in their seemingly two-horse race for the LaLiga title with Barca.

Kroos control

Kroos will be an integral figure for Germany in their bid to lift the Jules Rimet trophy in the Middle East and the veteran midfielder offered a timely reminder of his qualities with his second-half strike.

The 32-year-old appeared to be everywhere for Madrid, assisting Militao's header with one of his game-high four chances created, as well as regaining possession eight times – another game-leading figure.

Gonzalez struggles again

Cadiz coach Sergio Gonzalez must be pondering what he must do to taste victory against Madrid.

He has gone 11 games without defeating Los Blancos in LaLiga (D2 L9), more than against any other team in the competition.

What's next?

Madrid are not in action until visiting Real Valladolid on December 31 after the World Cup in Qatar, while Cadiz travel to Real Union Club on Sunday in the Copa del Rey first round.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has quelled suggestions that Karim Benzema is unavailable for club action in order to keep him fit for the World Cup.

The France international is set to represent the defending champions in Qatar but enters the tournament with a lack of minutes, having last appeared domestically against Elche on October 19.

Those fitness issues will once again keep Benzema absent from Thursday's trip to Cadiz, the final game before Qatar 2022, where Madrid are looking to bounce back after a surprise defeat to Rayo Vallecano on Monday.

Benzema's recent absence has not resulted in any concerns that he could be missing for France, leading to suggestions that he may just be being rested to ensure he does not get injured ahead of the tournament.

But Ancelotti denied that was the case.

"It has bothered me that he has not been able to help us with his quality - he has tried but he has not been able to come back from this small thing, so he is not available," Ancelotti said in Wednesday's press conference.

"I don't have to say anything to anyone. The first disappointed person is Karim, who arrives at the World Cup without the necessary minutes to be in good condition.

"To think that he has been rested, I do not believe it, it is silly. He has not stopped; he has trained alone, but the feelings he had were not good.

"It means he arrives at the World Cup with few minutes in his legs."

Asked whether Benzema ever felt his World Cup involvement was in doubt, Ancelotti added: "No, apart from that big injury against Celtic, it's been two small things."

Madrid's defeat last time out leaves the defending LaLiga champions five points adrift of leaders Barcelona, albeit with a game in hand, and Ancelotti highlighted a drop in intensity as the reason for his side's decline.

He added: "If you lower intensity against teams that do not play in Europe, such as Rayo, they can be at a higher level than the rest.

"It's less noticeable when you're playing against teams that do play in Europe."

Carlo Ancelotti refused to blame the officials after Real Madrid's 3-2 loss at Rayo Vallecano, putting Monday's defeat down to a "bad game".

Oscar Trejo scored the winner for Roya with a retaken second-half penalty, converted after the VAR penalised Dani Carvajal for encroachment, to condemn Madrid to their first defeat in LaLiga this season.

Los Blancos trail Barcelona by two points at the top-flight summit after just their second loss to Rayo in 21 league games.

Madrid are also without a win in their last two LaLiga outings after a 1-1 draw with Girona and coach Ancelotti acknowledged his side struggled at Vallecas.

"We knew they played like that, they were more forceful than us in the duels. It was a bad game, that's it," the Italian said.

"It cost us. We had to change our strategy and we didn't. Then, in the duels, we lost a lot when we were not capable of being as forceful as our opponent.

"Vinicius [Junior] missed two or three shots that he normally scores. [Marco] Asensio has done well. It hasn't been a good game for us."

Madrid profited from a touchline review in the first half, with referee Juan Martinez Munuera deeming Asensio to have been felled by Fran Garcia inside the area before Luka Modric converted to equalise following Santiago Comesana's opener.

But Ancelotti's side were on the receiving end of overturned decisions in the second half after referee Munuera again consulted the screen to give a penalty for handball against Carvajal for Trejo's winner.

Despite the contentious decision for the winning goal, Ancelotti insisted he had no complaints towards Munuera as he acknowledged the role the VAR can play in the decisions.

Asked about the referee, Ancelotti said: "I have no opinion, none. VAR is involved in these things.

"We lacked freshness and it's normal after so many games... We have to make an evaluation of this first part of the season, we've done well.

"We're in the Champions League last 16 and we're doing well in LaLiga."

Madrid host Cadiz on Thursday in their final game before the November break for the World Cup in Qatar.

Karim Benzema is "struggling" and has been ruled out of Real Madrid's trip to Rayo Vallecano on Monday, which could prove a worrying sign for France ahead of the World Cup.

The Ballon d'Or winner returned from a short lay-off to feature as a substitute in Madrid's 5-1 Champions League win against Celtic on Wednesday, but he is now back on the sidelines.

Benzema has been troubled by muscular fatigue in his left quadriceps and the 34-year-old remains not quite at ease, although Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti expects him to be available for their home game against Cadiz on Thursday.

Benzema joins defender Antonio Rudiger in missing Monday's game, as Madrid seek a win that would take them back above Barcelona at the top of LaLiga.

Looking ahead to the trip to Vallecano, Ancelotti said on Sunday: "Karim won't play because he's not feeling right.

"It looked as though he was okay, but he's struggling a bit and he won't be available tomorrow. Against Cadiz I don't think Rudiger will be back, but Karim should be."

Benzema has started just 11 games across all competitions this season, scoring six goals. He managed 44 goals in 46 games last term, enough to win the highly prized Ballon d'Or award, marking him out as the top performer in world football over the 2021-22 campaign.

"Karim's lack of game-time has meant we have got to see other players with real quality, like [Federico] Valverde, Rodrygo, Vinicius [Junior]," said Ancelotti.

"We've coped well with Karim being out thanks to the quality of the other lads. When we come back after the World Cup, we'll need Karim for the second part of the season."

The Italian then sang the praises of Rodrygo, the 21-year-old Brazilian who has seven goals this season, saying he considers the youngster "more as a centre-forward than a wide man".

Ancelotti was also asked about comparisons between Rodrygo and Brazil great Ronaldo, but says the 21-year-old benefits from the quality around him at the Santiago Bernabeu.

"Ronaldo wasn't as fortunate as Rodrygo," Ancelotti said. "Back then, Real Madrid weren't as strong as they are now in the Champions League. 

"Rodrygo can make the most of that. If he reaches Ronaldo's levels on an individual basis, we'll be building a statue to him."

Carlo Ancelotti joked of reaching 200 Champions League victories with Real Madrid after he matched Alex Ferguson's record following Wednesday's win over Celtic.

First-half penalties from Luka Modric and Rodrygo, followed by second-half strikes from Marco Asensio, Vinicius Junior, and Federico Valverde saw Madrid ease to a 5-1 win at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The win was Ancelotti's 102nd in the Champions League, drawing him level with Manchester United great Ferguson for the most victories by a coach in the competition.

When asked about matching the record, Ancelotti quipped: "Let's go for the 200. Happy to do it here at Madrid!

"It's been a lot of games on the bench. I think I've done pretty well."

The result also secured top spot in Group F for the Champions League holders, who won their pool for a third successive season.

Madrid had to come through matches against Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City before beating Liverpool in the final.

On who Madrid might end up facing in the next round, Ancelotti was typically laid back. 

"After last year, it's better not to look at it. Going there [to play the away fixture] first gives you a small advantage, but not too much," he said.

"The return home last year helped us a lot. The second game at the Bernabeu helps us."

Jota grabbed a late consolation for Celtic, who saw a first-half penalty saved by Thibaut Courtois. Asked by BT Sport how important the Belgium goalkeeper is for Madrid, Ancelotti said: "A good team is a good goalkeeper, good defenders, good midfielders, and a good striker – and also a good coach!"

"This is the most important thing," he added with a smirk.

Celtic had their chances aside from the penalty, though found themselves in the unprecedented position of being 2-0 down to two spot-kicks inside the first 21 minutes.

Both penalties were awarded for handball, and the decisions seemed harsh, in particular the second, with Matt O'Riley unable to move away from a shot hit straight at him.

A perplexed Joe Hart told BT Sport: "I don't think either of them intentionally used their hand, I think that goes without saying. 

"I spoke to Matt and he said his hands were inside him, and it hit him – what do they want him to do? Chop his arms off?" 

Carlo Ancelotti snapped back at suggestions Karim Benzema is playing less for Real Madrid as a precautionary measure ahead of the Qatar 2022 World Cup with France.

The veteran forward has not played since a 3-0 win over Elche in LaLiga almost a fortnight ago, instead reduced to a spectator on the sidelines for Los Blancos with a hamstring problem.

With the World Cup set to start later this month, Benzema – who was omitted from Didier Deschamps' title-winning squad at Russia 2018 – is hopeful of making the cut.

Speaking ahead of Madrid's Champions League clash with Celtic on Wednesday, Ancelotti shut down discussions the Ballon d'Or winner has been absent in order to facilitate his ticket to Qatar.

"Benzema hasn't played because he's picked up a couple of injuries," said the Italian. "He's 34, he looks after himself, and he's in good shape.

"He just hasn't been available. I am sure it is nothing to do with the World Cup, because a player needs to be fit and in good shape ahead of such a tournament.

Ancelotti hinted Benzema could make his return in midweek, as Madrid look to lock up top spot in Group F against their Scottish visitors at Santiago Bernabeu.

"He is training now," he added. "I have to decide if he starts, or if he features in the match. It depends on how he is feeling."

Benzema will be among the names Deschamps will almost certainly wish to include when he picks his squad for their title defence next week.

France will already be without World Cup winner Paul Pogba after the Juventus playmaker was confirmed to have fallen short in his recovery timetable.

Carlo Ancelotti is not losing sleep over a possible four-game ban, but the Real Madrid boss remains adamant his side were hard done by to concede a penalty against Girona.

Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw in LaLiga on Sunday after Marco Asensio was deemed by VAR to have handled in the area.

Cristhian Stuani converted the subsequent spot-kick, while Toni Kroos was sent off late on, to prompt a furious reaction from Ancelotti after the full-time whistle, with the Italian claiming the "penalty is an invention".

Ancelotti's comments could land him with a four-game ban, with a decision due this week, but ahead of Madrid's Champions League clash with Celtic on Wednesday, he was unrepentant.

"They can suspend me, or not – four games, we'll wait and see," he stated. "I've sat on the bench 1,200 times or more. If I miss four, I miss four.

"I still sleep at night. I want to clarify that I haven't disrespected anyone. I've said one thing that everyone in football understands.

"What is clear is that the referee association have complained about something I said. I'm not doubting the professionalism of a referee, I've never not respected a referee, I try and respect everyone."

 

Ancelotti believes the referee did not interpret the rules in the same way it was described to LaLiga's coaches at the start of the campaign.

He added: "The problem is, was it a penalty or was it not a penalty? I don't think it was, based on what they told us at the start of the season.

"Maybe they've changed the rules. If so, they should let us know, or is this always going to be a penalty from now on.

"We'd just like things to be clear. If it was a mistake, just say it was a mistake – everyone can make mistakes.

"If they tell us that this is a penalty, they have to explain it. I am not stupid and the rule that they have explained to us has told us that it was not a penalty."

Asked if VAR should have overruled the on-pitch official, Ancelotti replied: "Sometimes the VAR has more prominence than the referee.

"The VAR came in to clarify clear errors... I understand that it is a very, very fine line, but it did seem to me that awarding the penalty was a clear error."

Carlo Ancelotti claimed referee Mario Melero Lopez invented a decision to award Girona a penalty after Real Madrid were held to a 1-1 draw.

Los Blancos moved back above Barcelona to the top of the table but dropped points for only the second time in LaLiga this season.

Vinicius Junior put the champions in front in the 70th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday, but Cristhian Stuani equalised from the spot 10 minutes later.

Referee Melero Lopez adjudged Marco Asensio handled in the box after a VAR check and there was more late drama, with Rodrygo having a goal disallowed as Paulo Gazzaniga was deemed to have had control of the ball with one hand when the forward poked it into the back of the net.

Toni Kroos was then sent off for the first time in his club career in stoppage time as Madrid slipped up, but Ancelotti felt they were hard done by.

The Madrid head coach said: "I never like to talk about the referees, but today I am going to. I have spoken with Asensio and it is very clear that he does not touch the ball with his hand, it hits him in the chest.

"It is true that the position of his left hand is a little strange, but it covered the body, it did not make it bigger. There may be doubt if he touches it, but he simply did not touch the ball with his hand. This penalty is an invention."

Ancelotti conceded Madrid fell short of the standards he expects after they slipped up on the back of a Champions League defeat at RB Leipzig.

The Italian expects a response when they face Celtic on Wednesday, when the holders can secure top spot in Group F.

He said: "We're not at the level we were last week, we've had some problems, with the return of injured players, Rodrygo, [Luka] Modric, [Aurelien] Tchouameni.

"We're playing a lot of games and we're feeling tired. they have affected us a lot. We have the opportunity on Wednesday to be first and the goal is to be leaders at the break. At the moment we have everything in hand."

 

Real Madrid will once again be without Karim Benzema when they face Girona on Sunday and Rodrygo is also an injury doubt.

Captain Benzema trained on Friday, but the Ballon d'Or winner is still being troubled by muscular fatigue in his left leg.

Los Blancos head coach Ancelotti on Saturday revealed his star striker has undergone tests, which came back all clear.

But Madrid will not take any risks with the France international's fitness, while forward Rodrygo may also miss the LaLiga clash with Girona at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Ancelotti said of Benzema: "Yesterday he trained, after that he wasn't feeling very well. We had some tests and everything was fine, but we just want to be careful.

"The tests were quite positive, there was no problem at all, but he isn't feeling 100 per cent, so we are going to remain calm with him."

Rodrygo did not train on Saturday due to an unspecified injury and his fitness will be assessed on the day of the game.

Luka Modric, Federico Valverde and Dani Ceballos are set to return for the league leaders.

Madrid were beaten 3-2 by RB Leipzig in the Champions League on Tuesday and Ancelotti expects a response from his players.

The Italian said: "I think the team learned [from the loss to Leipzig] that we need to prep for every game as if it's the most important of the season.

"Sometimes when you play every three days you need to recover physically and it is not easy to always stay motivated."

Carlo Ancelotti acknowledged "sooner or later" Real Madrid had to lose but Thibaut Courtois lamented Los Blancos' defensive concentration after a 3-2 defeat at RB Leipzig.

Madrid were without the injured Federico Valverde, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric and fell two goals behind after strikes from Josko Gvardiol and Christopher Nkunku on Tuesday.

That marked the first time Madrid conceded twice in the first 20 minutes of a Champions League in a group stage match and just the fourth time in the competition in total.

Vinicius Junior pulled one back and Rodrygo scored a late consolation, but Timo Werner's strike inflicted a fourth Champions League defeat on Madrid in 2022, only in 2001 (five) have they suffered more.

However, Ancelotti refused to criticise Los Blancos – who sit top of LaLiga and remain favourites to win Group F – as he suggested a defeat was expected at some point.

"I'm not angry. It's a defeat, annoying, but it doesn't do much damage," the Madrid coach told Movistar. "Sooner or later it had to happen. Go on, you can't look back.

"I can't criticise a team that has done very well. From defeats, you learn more than ten wins in a row. We are very forceful at set-pieces, but we were not tonight."

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was far less forgiving in his assessment, lamenting Ancelotti's visitors for failing to defend two early set-pieces that brought goals for Gvardiol and Nkunku.

"It is what sometimes happens to us. We went out asleep, without intensity and you pay for it," the Belgium international added to Movistar. "The coach warned us and it still happened.

"We can't go out like that. We put in before the break. But in the second half the same, we missed a lot of passes.

"As a goalkeeper, you are noticing that we are not in the game. In many duels, we did not win. That happens in both goals, due to lack of intensity. We have to wake up.

"A bad day can happen but intensity cannot be missing. There are many on the bench and if you can't do it any more, you can't do it any more."

Madrid host Celtic on the final matchday and only have to match Leipzig's result at Shakhtar Donetsk to progress to the knockout stages as group winners.

Carlo Ancelotti insists his Real Madrid players are not playing in fear of injuries before the World Cup, as Luka Modric and Karim Benzema were ruled out of their Champions League trip to RB Leipzig. 

Having established a four-point lead over Leipzig at the summit of Group F, Madrid can secure top spot with a game to spare by avoiding defeat against the Bundesliga outfit on Tuesday.

However, Madrid's efforts to do so could be hampered by the absences of Modric and Benzema, while in-form midfielder Federico Valverde has joined the duo on the sidelines after suffering a knock in Saturday's win over Sevilla.

All three players are set to feature when the World Cup begins in less than a month's time, but Ancelotti does not feel the tournament is impacting players' thoughts.

"I don't think they think about it. It is better to enter the World Cup well, with continuity," Ancelotti said at his pre-match news conference.

"They are small things, and we don't want to risk them at an important moment. It is better to lose Modric and Karim for one day than for a month.

"Injuries exist in football. If you don't want to get injured, stay on the couch. I tell my players that. 

"Nothing can be done. I don't think the players are worried about this. If anyone is afraid of training, I tell them to stay home; there are many good series and movies."

With Madrid also topping LaLiga after winning 10 of their first 11 games, Ancelotti believes the timing of the World Cup may benefit his side following a manic stretch of fixtures.

"It is a very intense period, with many games, too many," Ancelotti added. "We are holding it well. 

"We have some problems, which is normal when you play every three days. The World Cup comes at the right time."

Madrid's injury concerns could mean several fringe players get an opportunity to impress in Germany, including Marco Asensio, who recently said he was unhappy with his lack of minutes.

Ancelotti remains pleased with Asensio's application and is committed to discussing his future during the World Cup break.

"The club knows very well what I think, and so does Asensio. Soon there is a long break, and it is time to talk about this issue," Ancelotti said.

"Until the first phase is over, I don't think we should talk about this issue.

"What I ask of those who play less is that they be serious, professional and endure the difficult moments.

"That's what Asensio and the rest who play less do. Tomorrow we have casualties and their contribution can increase."

Federico Valverde will miss Real Madrid's Champions League game at RB Leipzig on Tuesday, joining Karim Benzema in being ruled out of the trip to Germany.

Uruguayan midfielder Valverde has been in revelatory form for Madrid this season and scored his seventh goal of the campaign in Saturday's 3-1 win against Sevilla.

However, he took a heavy knock late in that game after being clattered by Papu Gomez, who was booked, and that blow has counted Valverde out of head coach Carlo Ancelotti's midweek plans.

Ballon d'Or winner Benzema was already expected to miss the Leipzig fixture, having been absent against Sevilla due to muscular fatigue in his left leg, and that was confirmed as Madrid announced their travelling squad.

Neither Valverde nor Benzema is expected to be sidelined for long, with reports in Spain indicating both could come back into contention for next Sunday's LaLiga game against Girona.

Madrid have already made sure of a place in the knockout stages of the Champions League, and they will be confirmed as winners of Group F if they avoid defeat at second-placed Leipzig, who sit four points behind Ancelotti's defending champions.

Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti believes the current Real Madrid squad may be the best that he has ever coached.

Lucas Vazquez and Federico Valverde scored in the final 15 minutes to propel Los Blancos to a 3-1 victory over Sevilla, which opened up a six-point lead over Barcelona – who face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Victory at Santiago Bernabeu was Madrid's ninth in 10 LaLiga matches this season, with Ancelotti's side yet to taste defeat across all competitions – only being held twice overall, against Osasuna and Shakhtar Donetsk.

The valiant late surge left Ancelotti, who has won the Champions League in two separate stints with the club, to declare that the current crop of players may well be the best he has ever overseen in his career.

"I don't know if it's the most reliable of my career, but it's a team I like coaching," he said in the post-match press conference.

"It's a team that doesn't give me problems, that is respectful. And as a quality, it's one of the best I've ever had, if not the best."

Victory against Sevilla came alongside a shuffling of the deck as Ancelotti balanced Madrid's frantic schedule ahead of the World Cup in Qatar next month and he praised the performance of those that were brought in.

"These are resources that we have on the bench. The squad is healthy when those who play less enter the field and do very well," he added.

"We have to endure this stretch of the season, we need to continue suffering and win games."

Valverde picked up a knock in the game while Karim Benzema was not part of the matchday squad after a niggle in training, though the Italian coach was not concerned by either issue.

"Karim is very important for us and he will be more important in the second leg of the season. We're not worried, because it's a very small thing," he said.

"Valverde has a blow to the leg, it bothers him a little, we have to see him. I don't know if he's going to be able to recover. Benzema, I think will be back on Sunday."

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