Ancelotti's toughest week: Malaga, Juventus & Barcelona to test the coach's credentials at Real Madrid

The Italian has admitted his side are playing poorly, but must now find the formula in a tricky seven-day spell which culminates in the Clasico at Camp Nou next Saturday
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

It was a brutal assessment. In a stark interview with Corriere della Sera this week, Carlo Ancelotti revealed his discontent at the way his Madrid side have been performing so far this season. "We can't play any worse," he admitted. But on Friday, in front of the Madrid media, the discourse was somewhat more positive: "We have to play better..."

They do. Although Real's record of six wins out of eight and one draw in La Liga so far this season is respectable by the standards of most teams, some of those results have hidden a multitude of sins in some dismal displays and the capital club already find themselves five points behind both Barcelona and Atletico in the title race. And now, less than four months into his tenure at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ancelotti faces his toughest test to date: Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday and then Barca in the Clasico at Camp Nou in La Liga next weekend.

Malaga (h) Oct 19
La Liga
Juventus (h)
Oct 23
C. League
Barcelona (a)
Oct 26
La Liga
Before that, however, Malaga visit the Bernabeu and Ancelotti's men must win to remain in touch with their two main rivals in La Liga. A meeting with Ancelotti's former club follows as the Italian champions turn up in the Spanish capital on Wednesday. "Juventus are very motivated and very well-organised, with quality players," Ancelotti told Uefa this week - although Madrid will nevertheless be expected to defeat the Bianconeri on home soil in what is the first of two key clashes with Antonio Conte's men in the Champions League.

And then comes the Clasico at Camp Nou next Saturday. Ancelotti's predecessor, Jose Mourinho, lost his first fixture against the Catalans by five goals to nil in November 2010. Already under pressure, Ancelotti can ill afford a repeat of such a scoreline and, worse still, a loss would mean an eight-point deficit, with hopes of reclaiming La Liga looking slimmer still. Last season, Madrid fell behind early on and were never able to catch up; this term, Ancelotti's side are also in danger of slipping too far off the pace in October. Defeat, therefore, would be disastrous.

"This team, for all the individual quality it has, should be playing better," Ancelotti said on Friday. "We need to improve defensively and in the speed of our play. It is the start of an important week - Malaga, Juventus and Barcelona - and the team is focused to try and win [those games]."

Wise words, but Madrid must now respond on the pitch. And even though the Italian went on to discuss his close relationship with Madrid president Florentino Perez, he knows only winning will be enough to silence the doubters in what has been an unconvincing start to his reign at Real. Over to you, Carlo.

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