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Champions League

Midseason World Cup poses ‘big doubt’ on players’ fitness



Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has said his “big doubt” this year is over the impact of the midseason Qatar World Cup on players’ fitness and performance.

The LaLiga season kicks off this weekend with 14 rounds of matches due to be played before the league takes a break for the start of the World Cup, which will now begin on Sunday, Nov. 20.

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The league will resume on Dec. 29 — just 11 days after the World Cup final — to play the remaining 24 rounds of games until the season concludes on June 4.

“I think we won’t have many problems until the World Cup. The players want to go to the World Cup in good condition,” Ancelotti said in a news conference on Saturday ahead of Madrid’s LaLiga opener at Almeria. “The big doubt is after the World Cup, how the players come back.

“Usually after the World Cup the players go on holiday. Here the players will come back to begin the important part of the season. That’s where we’ll have to evaluate their tiredness, and think about resting them.”

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Ancelotti was famed for keeping rotation to a minimum last year, relying on the same core group of players as Madrid won a LaLiga and Champions League double, but said that would change this season.

“We have a very strong squad, you need everyone to stay motivated,” he added. “We also have a World Cup. We need a big squad, in good condition. So the idea is to rotate a bit more compared to last year.”

One of the beneficiaries could be Eden Hazard, who Ancelotti has backed to finally deliver after three injury-hit campaigns at the Bernabeu.

“I’m sure he’ll play more than he played last year,” Ancelotti said. “He can play in different positions up front. He’s more used to playing on the left, he played on the right last year and did well, and we’ve tried him as a false nine.”

The coach was also asked about the omission of Toni Kroos from France Football’s 30-player shortlist for the 2022 Men’s Ballon d’Or — released on Friday — which featured six Madrid players: Karim Benzema, Thibaut Courtois, Vinicius Junior, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Antonio Rudiger.

“It surprises me a bit, because Kroos had a fantastic season,” Ancelotti said. “But nominating every single Real Madrid player could be a problem. It’s a bit strange that Kroos isn’t there but it’s strange for [Fede] Valverde, Eder Militao, David Alaba… For me they all deserve it.”

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