Ancelotti has made Bayern even harder to beat - Bale
Gareth Bale says Carlo Ancelotti has made Bayern Munich an even tougher Champions League opponent for Real Madrid ahead of the quarter-final first leg between the two sides at the Allianz Arena on Wednesday.
Ancelotti coached Bale and his colleagues to Real’s 10th European Cup/Champions League triumph against city rivals Atletico Madrid in 2014 and now has his eyes trained on silverware with the German champions.
“If you look at the past three Bayern managers each of them has introduced something a bit different without their approach affecting the success of the team,” Bale says of Ancelotti and his predecessors Pep Guardiola and Jupp Heynckes.
“Ancelotti has probably made them a bit harder to beat but they are still deadly going forward. He’s a great manager so you expect him to make an impact and be successful wherever he goes.”
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Bale expects two tough legs between Bayern and Real and stressed the importance of an away goal in Bavaria.
“It’ll obviously be a huge game as they are such a dangerous and well-established team,” he says. “With the first leg being in Munich we really need to try score an away goal and defend well, so that we can make the most of the second leg being at the Bernabeu.”
Real were again indebted to goal scoring defender Sergio Ramos when they overcame Napoli to take their place alongside Bayern in the last eight. The 31-year-old has been hailed as Zinedine Zidane’s saviour this season due to the number of times he’s clinched vital goals.
However, Bale sees no cause for concern that these individual moments of quality - and not necessarily brilliant team performances - are carrying them through.
“It’s not really something we have talked about,” he says. “In any top-flight team there will be talented players throughout the squad, so you expect them all to be capable of making a telling contribution at some time in any match.
“Also, for any great moment that an individual creates, there’s a team behind them that have made that possible.”
Bale has only managed two goals in seven La Liga matches since returning from the ankle injury he sustained in November and is working hard to get back to his best form as the crunch part of the season closes in.
“Like any player it will take a little bit of time to get back to 100 per cent,” he says. “It’s hard sitting on the sidelines but recovering and building up strength is important. Everyone would rather be on the pitch. It was frustrating to pick up the injury but these things happen.”
Bale has won two Champions League titles in his time at Santiago Bernabeu and is now well-settled in the Spanish capital. He is close to ex-Tottenham Hotspur team-mate Luka Modric and admits there is a strong bond running throughout the squad.
“It is an amazing city to live in,” he says. “The weather is great, the people are lovely and the food and culture is amazing. The pace of life is different than in London but it is pretty intense.
“Luka Modric is probably my closest friend and also Toni Kroos but everyone gets on and we are all pretty close. The biggest joker has to be Marcelo.”
Despite the camaraderie, Bale has still had no luck in convincing his team-mates to join him on the golf course. “I’m the best golfer – I’m the only one in the team that plays!" he says. “I have to play with friends when they come over or on my own. There are some people in the club outside of the players that I’ll play with. I play off of five but am aiming to improve.”
Before Real’s last Champions League away fixture, Napoli fans famously tried to disturb preparations by making a racket long into the night outside the team hotel but despite the din Bale slept soundly.
“Apparently they were making a lot of noise but thankfully we couldn’t really hear them,” he says. “The backroom staff at Madrid are meticulous in their planning and while the tactical and physical side to preparation is obviously important, they also stress the importance of a good night’s sleep as it can improve your focus and help you to perform better on the pitch – especially when it comes to decision making.
"So wherever we go they make sure that we’re able to rest well. Bale recognises the importance of a good night’s sleep – especially before big games."
The 27-year-old – who flies to more than 35 away games a season - has been working with SIMBA Sleep on ways to replicate the comfort of sleeping at home while on the move. Bale - like Lebron James and Roger Federer - aims for 10 hours of sleep per night and even one restless evening can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of illness. Poor sleep for 64 hours can lead to strength and power being reduced.
“There’s a lot of research that suggests that sleep can aid recovery and help with injury prevention. When I first spoke with Simba we discussed how long I spend traveling and they were interested to see if they could come up with a way to bring the comfort of sleeping on your mattress at home to an airplane.”
Gareth Bale is a SIMBA Sleep ambassador – to learn more about SIMBA’s latest sleep innovations visit www.simbasleep.com .