Ancelotti's tactical acumen leads Real to 36th La Liga title

Madrid now can turn their attention to a La Liga-Champions League double as they get ready to host Bayern Munich in the semifinal return leg

By Reuters

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Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. — Reuters
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti. — Reuters

Published: Sun 5 May 2024, 1:30 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 May 2024, 1:31 PM

Real Madrid claimed a record-extending 36th La Liga title on Saturday after Girona's 4-2 thrashing of local rivals Barcelona left Carlo Ancelotti's side with an unassailable lead in the standings.

With four games left, Real Madrid moved to 87 points on top of the standings after their second-string players earned a 3-0 over relegation threatened Cadiz earlier on Saturday, 13 ahead of Girona in second and 14 clear of third-placed Barcelona.

Xavi Hernandez's side were the only one left who could prevent their bitter rivals Real lifting the title, but their faint hopes were extinguished in Girona as they fell to their second league defeat in three matches.

Real Madrid now can turn their attention to a La Liga-Champions League double as they get ready to host Bayern Munich in the semifinal return leg on Wednesday after snatching a 2-2 draw in Germany last week.

"It's obviously a contained joy, because the most important game of the season (Bayern) is also very close, but we have to be happy," Ancelotti told Movistar Plus+ on Saturday, before knowing the Barca result.

"Those games (Cadiz) are difficult to prepare for, because you have Wednesday on your mind. But so far it's been spectacular, our team was steady, with hardly any mistakes. The advantage we have is well deserved."

The La Liga title crowned a remarkable domestic campaign despite major knee injuries sustained by keeper Thibaut Courtois and defenders Eder Militao and David Alaba early in the season, in addition to a big hole left up-front after forward Karim Benzema joined Saudi Arabia's Al Ittihad.

To overcome such obstacles, 64-year-old Ancelotti had to prove once again that he is much more than just a manager who knows how to bring out the best in his players, both the young and experienced.

His tactical nous was instrumental in fixing Real's problems, including improvising midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni as a centre back alongside Antonio Ruediger and changing the system to deploy Jude Bellingham as an attacking midfielder, with freedom to get forward and support Vinicius Jr and Rodrygo up front.

Bellingham scored 15 goals in his first 16 games and he, Vinicius and Rodrygo have netted 41 of Real's 74 league goals.

At the back, German international Ruediger had arguably enjoyed the best season of his career at age 31, leading a rock-solid Real Madrid defence which conceded only 22 goals in 34 league games, way ahead of La Liga's second-best Athletic Bilbao with 33.

"A big part (of Real success) was achieved when we started to defend better, with a collective commitment," Ancelotti said.

"The effort put by the players up front was great, but the injuries early in the season helped us to realise that it wasn't about individuals but putting on a collective effort, and we did great."

Ancelotti two years ago became the first manager to capture titles in each of Europe’s top five leagues and he has now added another trophy to cement his legacy as one of the most successful coaches in history.


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