Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has agreed with Mohamed Salah that the Liverpool star is the best player in the world in his position.

Ancelotti's Madrid face Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool in the Champions League final on May 28 in Paris, with two contenders for the Ballon d'Or lining up against each other in Salah and Karim Benzema.

Salah has been in fine domestic scoring form once again this season, on course for the Premier League's Golden Boot award with 22 strikes, while he has been directly involved in 35 goals in 34 league games.

The Egypt international, speaking after winning the Football Writers' Association Player of the Year in England, declared himself as the best forward in the world at present.

"If you compare me with any player in my position, not only in my team but in the world, you will find that I am the best," he told BeIN SPORTS.

"I always focus on my work and do my best, and my numbers are the best proof of my words."

Indeed, only five players – Ciro Immobile (156), Kylian Mbappe (167), Cristiano Ronaldo (169), Lionel Messi (174) and Robert Lewandowski (232) – have scored more than Salah (154) since his Liverpool debut in August 2017 across Europe's top five leagues in all competitions.

Meanwhile, Lewandowski (49), Benzema (44), Mbappe (35), Christopher Nkunku (34) and Immobile (32) are the only players from the same group to outscore Salah (30) this season.

The debate continues over who should win the next Ballon d'Or with Benzema, who could deliver World Cup glory for France in Qatar to aid his cause, and Salah among the front-runners for the personal accolade.

Ancelotti, addressing a pre-match news conference ahead of a LaLiga clash at Cadiz on Sunday, admitted that no player comes close to Salah in his position at the minute.

"Salah has said that in his position he is the best in the world and I think he is right," Ancelotti told reporters.

"I agree with him. In his position, yes, he is the best in the world."

Eden Hazard has no other plans than to stay at Real Madrid, Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti has said.

Belgium international Hazard has struggled at Santiago Bernabeu since completing his reported €100million move from Chelsea in June 2019, with injuries and fitness issues hampering the forward.

Hazard has managed just seven starts for his 17 LaLiga appearances and 688 minutes this campaign as Madrid cruised to their 35th league title.

However, the 31-year-old appears to be a favourite with his team-mates in the Spanish capital after being seen to be encouraged to join in with celebrations after both LaLiga success and the Champions League semi-final victory over Manchester City.

Ancelotti, speaking before a trip to Cadiz on Sunday, has made it clear he intends to keep Hazard at Madrid.

"I have not talked about continuity. He stays and with a lot of motivation because he has not had a good time. He wants to show his quality. Hazard's plan is clear: he stays," Ancelotti said.

Asked if Hazard is likely to feature at Cadiz as Ancelotti rotates ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28, the Italian responded: "I think so. In a squad like Madrid's there are many games. 

"There will be rotations. With a more complete squad you can rotate more and everyone can have opportunities. Being a starter in a great team is very complicated. For all, not only for those who play less.

"I think it is a locker room of a very high level. Professional, first, there are no arrogant people. Everyone is very humble and very respectful. It is a locker room that has a lot of quality of character. 

"It hasn't been easy to find changing rooms like this in my career.

"The number of minutes is not important. We have the example of Rodrygo. He has not played many minutes, but they have been quality when he features."

Ancelotti also confirmed he plans to rest Karim Benzema again, with Vinicius Junior and Thibaut Courtois also in line for a break.

"I have given him rest because he deserves it," he said of Benzema. "I have given him two days. Tomorrow I will also rest Vinicius and Courtois. They will be back on Tuesday. 

"[Dani] Carvajal, [Dani] Ceballos, Hazard are back... We're doing the plan well and next week they'll all be back."

As for the future of captain Marcelo, Ancelotti promised to open talks at the end of the season, while he heaped praise on the likes of Federico Valverde, Rodrygo and Eduardo Camavinga.

"Everyone has done their job. The ones I knew less about have surprised me: Valverde, Rodrygo, Camavinga. Vinicius has not surprised me because he has that talent," he continued.

"He has been more successful in finishing. I would say Rodrygo, Camavinga and Valverde are the three, though."

Madrid have won both of their last two visits to Cadiz in LaLiga (2-1 in August 2005 and 3-0 in April 2021), and could record three such straight away wins for the second time in the competition (three between 1987 and 1990).

Carlo Ancelotti has challenged his Real Madrid side to maintain their intensity ahead of the Champions League final with Liverpool on May 28.

Los Blancos, who were crowned LaLiga champions a fortnight ago, condemned Levante to relegation on Thursday following a 6-0 thumping at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Vinicius Junior scored his first hat-trick for the club in his 168th appearance, with Ferland Mendy, Karim Benzema and Rodrygo also finding the back of the net.

Benzema's header saw him move level with Raul as Madrid's second-highest all-time top goalscorer on 323 goals.

The emphatic win followed Sunday's El Derbi defeat to Atletico Madrid, and Ancelotti said he expects his players to give 100 per cent in their remaining two league games before the showdown with Jurgen Klopp's side.

"We are playing well and our self-esteem has grown a lot," he told a media conference.

"We have this challenge of playing in the final after winning the league. We know that there is a lack of time and that we have to have intensity.

"The team are showing very good signs. We work very well in the field. We have done well, with rhythm and intensity. It's what we wanted, high intensity for team dynamics."

Asked what his side's formation will be for the game against Liverpool, Ancelotti revealed he will not deviate from his trusted 4-3-3.

"It will be the 4-3-3," he said. "That sometimes can be a 4-4-2. I think there is no defined system. Sometimes to put pressure on the pivot, as we did against Manchester City, you go from 4-3-3 to 4-4-1-1. 

"The idea does not change much, just a little the way of defending the rival, of putting pressure on him."

Ancelotti has received plaudits from across Europe in recent weeks after masterminding Madrid's dramatic run to the Champions League final, yet the Italian would not be drawn on whether he is the best on the continent.

"It is difficult to answer that," he said. "I don't like to give myself votes, others give them to me. 

"I like to live a happy moment. I hope I can continue like this for a long time. We have a very big goal, we are going to give everything."

Madrid face Cadiz and Real Betis before doing battle with the Reds in Paris at the end of the month.

Erling Haaland is a "great player" who is joining a "great club" in Manchester City, but Carlo Ancelotti suggested he is not overly upset at missing out on the much-coveted striker.

City confirmed on Tuesday they have reached an agreement to sign Haaland, who had been linked with an array of clubs across Europe – Ancelotti's Real Madrid among them.

Haaland's 85 goals in 88 games since joining Dortmund in January 2020 is bettered only by Robert Lewandowski (122) and Kylian Mbappe (89) across Europe's top five leagues.

But Madrid already boast a prolific striker of their own in Karim Benzema, whose 57 direct goal involvements in all competitions is unmatched in the continent's major divisions.

While Ancelotti has made no secret that he is a fan of Haaland, he is happy with his current squad, having already wrapped up his first LaLiga title and reached the Champions League final thanks to their sensational comeback against City last week.

"I don't really like to talk about this," Ancelotti said at a news conference on Wednesday when asked about Haaland's imminent switch to the Premier League leaders.

"He's a great player, City's a great club. But I'm sticking with my squad, which has led me to enjoy another Champions League final."

Madrid set up a showdown with Liverpool in Paris by overcoming City in a remarkable semi-final tie that they trailed 5-3 with a minute of normal time remaining.

Los Blancos followed that up with a 1-0 loss to rivals Atletico Madrid last weekend in a game that saw Ancelotti make seven changes to his starting line-up.

Ancelotti confirmed the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior will each return for Thursday's visit of Levante, who have lost just one of their last four trips to face Madrid in LaLiga.

Despite the title being secured with four games to spare, Ancelotti insists his side are not yet focusing on their upcoming clash with Liverpool at the Stade de France on May 28.

"The time we have spent together since the Atletico match has been looking only at tomorrow's game," he said. 

"It's important we give minutes to those who didn't play against Atletico, and then we have another game on Sunday. We are not preparing for the final.

"Tomorrow is a game that we have to play well to win. The objective is the same: keep a good rhythm, play well with the ball and win the match.

"If you lose competitiveness, you will not do well. They must rest, but also play in order to reach 100 per cent. 

"All this time it has been said that Ancelotti did not rotate and now that he does, nobody is happy. You have to give minutes to players."

Even with Haaland no longer on the market, Madrid are expected to strengthen in attack, with Mbappe their main target.

But Ancelotti was once again unwilling to discuss any potential targets, with Chelsea's Antonio Rudiger another rumoured to be on Madrid's radar. In fact, reports on Tuesday suggested the deal had been done to bring the Germany defender to Santiago Bernabeu on a free transfer.

"After the final there will be time to talk about this. For now, we are just aiming to finish the season well," he said.

"Talking about the future transfer window is not correct, I don't want to. I want to talk about tomorrow's match. It is the day to talk about this, not about alleged new signings."

Carlo Ancelotti intends to continue rotating his Real Madrid side across their remaining LaLiga matches with all focus on the Champions League final against Liverpool.

Madrid were beaten 1-0 by fierce rivals Atletico Madrid in Sunday's El Derbi after making seven changes from their dramatic midweek European win against Manchester City.

While the likes of Luka Modric and Vinicius Junior were brought on at the second half, Karim Benzema and Thibaut Courtois remained on the bench at Wanda Metropolitano.

Los Blancos have already sealed the title and can afford to chop and change with three more LaLiga outings to come before their May 28 showdown with Liverpool. 

Ancelotti's side host Levante on Thursday and round off their domestic campaign with games against Cadiz and Real Betis.

Asked if he will continue to make changes to his side, the Italian coach told Movistar: "Yeah. Those who played less today will now play on Thursday.

"But the team that plays against Betis will more or less be the team that will play the [Champions League] final. The aim is to reach the final with everyone available.

"We still expect to compete, play with a high intensity and good rhythm. In the second half today the rhythm was good."

 

Madrid's defeat was their first against neighbours Atletico in 12 matches in all competitions in a run stretching back to 2018.

The visitors fired in 15 shots against Atleti, six of which were on target – only against Cadiz have they tested the keeper more times in LaLiga this term without scoring (nine).

Yannick Carrasco's penalty shortly before half-time proved the difference for Atleti, who ended the game with an expected goals (xG) value of 2.33 compared to 1.26 for Madrid.

"It was a good, competitive match," Ancelotti added. "We played much better in the second half and couldn't have asked for more in a match that comes after an exciting week.

"I didn't really expect any more from my side."

Atletico's penalty was awarded two minutes after Jesus Vallejo felled Matheus Cunha in the box, with VAR instructing referee Cesar Soto Grado to check the pitchside monitor.

That was the first spot-kick Los Rojiblancos have scored against Madrid in LaLiga since Diego Forlan converted from 12 yards in March 2010.

Ancelotti was surprisingly not asked about the contentious incident and joked "aren't we talking about the penalty" as he exited his post-match news conference.

Carlo Ancelotti insisted there are no problems with Gareth Bale within the Real Madrid dressing room after the Wales international missed Los Blancos' LaLiga title celebrations.

Madrid lifted their 35th league title last Saturday after a 4-0 hammering of Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, where Los Blancos celebrated on the pitch with the trophy in front of supporters after the game.

Ancelotti's side then embarked on a bus parade around the Spanish capital the following day, but Bale was not present on both occasions as he cited "back spasms" for his absence.

Eden Hazard, much like Bale, has not featured often for Madrid this season but could be seen joyously involved with the midweek celebrations after a dramatic Champions League win over Manchester City.

That continued the speculation as to the popularity of Bale, who has just played five times in LaLiga this season, but Ancelotti believes his side hold a "mutual respect" for the former Tottenham man.

"There is no distance with the dressing room, they have mutual affection, he was absent because he could not move. It happened to me," the Italian told reporters at a news conference on Saturday.

Dani Ceballos is another Los Blancos name linked with the exit door in the next transfer window, but has been offered more chances in recent weeks, featuring in eight of the last nine games.

Ancelotti revealed his desire to keep the midfielder at the club ahead of the clash with Atletico Madrid in LaLiga on Sunday.

"I've had a chat with Ceballos, he knows what I think of him, what the club think of him and he has to make what he thinks is the best decision," he added.

"He knows what I think, what his team-mates think, then he has to sit down and decide what he wants to do."

Meanwhile, Ancelotti reserved special praise for right-back Dani Carvajal, who impressed against Pep Guardiola's City in the remarkable Champions League turnaround.

"He has struggled with injuries but he's got a good, strong personality," he continued. "I know he's been frustrated at times and has not been able to deliver to 100 per cent.

"He was outstanding against Manchester City. Nobody has ever thrown in the towel, given up. To wear the Real Madrid shirt means a lot to these players, Carvajal now is in excellent shape, he's helping a lot.

"Also, when the team need him most he's there."

Carlo Ancelotti hopes to continue living a "long honeymoon" at Real Madrid, and said he respects Atletico Madrid despite the fact the club will not give his side receive a guard of honour in Sunday's derby.

Los Blancos celebrated a 35th LaLiga title by hammering Espanyol 4-0 last week before reaching the Champions League final in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Madrid were trailing 1-0 on the night and 5-3 on aggregate before substitute Rodrygo scored twice in injury time, dramatic scenes that preceded Karim Benzema scoring the winning penalty in extra time to set up a showpiece with Liverpool in Paris.

Following the win over Espanyol, Ancelotti was pictured smoking a cigar when celebrating with his squad – a photo that went viral on social media.

Asked if he was enjoying a renewed youth in his second spell at Madrid, Ancelotti told a news conference: "You can say that [I am enjoying it more than ever].

"But I really enjoyed my time at Napoli for example, I didn't win titles I enjoyed my time at all the clubs I've managed.

"At Everton I didn't win a title but loved beating Liverpool. Everton are now struggling, we finished quite high up in the table with Everton. 

"Real Madrid is different. You could say, yeah, it's a honeymoon period. I'm still on the honeymoon, a long honeymoon, from December through to May – hopefully the end of May."

Madrid's first league encounter since regaining the title is against the side they deposed at champions in the form at Atleti, who released a statement on Monday saying they will not provide a guard of honour – an act that is commonplace in Spanish football.

Ancelotti has no qualms about the decision, though.

"I'm not used to this because we don't see it in Italy. If they do it then great, if they don't then I still respect the club," he added.

"I have the utmost respect for Atletico Madrid."

Amid the furore of Real Madrid's quite astonishing great escape in the Champions League – well, their latest – it's easy to forget they only won the Spanish title last weekend.

Of course, it had been long foreseen, but Madrid's 35th LaLiga crown was secured with their 4-0 win over Espanyol at the Santiago Bernabeu, leading to a party that had Marcelo climbing statues, Carlo Ancelotti smoking a cigar and David Alaba getting his chair out again.

With a record-extending 17th Champions League final appearance wrapped up, Madrid can turn their attention back to LaLiga knowing they still have a reason to keep themselves sharp, and they could yet equal their best points tally (93) since reaching 100 in 2011-12.

Fittingly, their first league match as champions comes against the team they ousted, with bitter rivals Atletico Madrid playing host to Los Blancos at the Wanda Metropolitano on Sunday.

While that match has taken a back seat over the past few days, in Spain there has been a debate centred on the derby rumbling in the background for some time now.

As champions, Madrid might feel entitled to a pasillo, or 'guard of honour' – but they won't get one.

'A public toll'

While the guard of honour is a tradition with deep roots in sport, there's little doubt that it's a polarising gesture.

A mark of respect, perhaps, but more and more it is seen as a tool of humiliation, particularly when expected in such contests between major rivals.

The decision was down to Atletico's decision makers rather than the players, though captain Jan Oblak made his feelings perfectly clear after their defeat to Athletic Bilbao last weekend.

He said: "As captain, I'm one of those who doesn't like to give or receive the guard of honour, but the club will decide and we'll do whatever is necessary."

Atletico subsequently released a statement on Monday confirming they'll not participate, with their strong response claiming the recent debate was stirred purely to stoke anger between fanbases.

They said: "Some want to turn what was born as a gesture of recognition for the champion into a public toll that their rivals must pay, also impregnated with the aroma of humiliation. Under no concept are Atletico Madrid going to collaborate in this attempt at derision in which the true values ​​of sport are completely forgotten and tension and confrontation between the fans is encouraged."

Additionally, Atletico suggested there was no such debate around Celta Vigo's decision not to give them a guard of honour at the start of this season, with the controversy around the upcoming derby "exaggerated and artificial".

Some might feel Atletico's disdain for the tradition is disrespectful, but there is refreshing sentiment behind their stance as well: not every mark of respect needs to be accompanied by a performative gesture.

In this age of obsessing over social media engagement, there seems a need to turn normal behaviour into a song and dance, the classic example being the tidy changing room photo. "That's class" or "respect [clapping emoji]" litter the replies on Twitter – it's not, it's just common courtesy.

If Atletico players, officials, coaches or fans wish to congratulate Madrid, it doesn't require a forced gesture.

Madrid's refusal

This is by no means the first time Madrid have been involved in guard of honour controversy. Four years ago, the debate around the pasillo was arguably at its zenith.

Barcelona had won the title prior to facing Madrid in El Clasico, meaning there were those in the Blaugrana ranks expecting a show of respect at Camp Nou.

But Madrid refused. Zinedine Zidane, coach at the time, pointed the finger. He suggested they might have reciprocated had Barca given them a guard of honour a few months earlier when Los Blancos won the Club World Cup.

Barca's justification then was that they didn't play in the Club World Cup so didn't need to acknowledge Madrid's success – not that Zidane was buying the excuse.

"It's a lie," he said. "You have to win the Champions League to play in the Club World Cup. I am not the one to decide that we don't want to do the pasillo. They didn't do it, we respect that; we'll not do it because they didn't do it."

Gerard Pique, true to form, found a novel way to get around the issue while simultaneously highlighting Madrid's refusal – he arranged for Barca's coaching staff to give the players a pasillo instead at full-time.

Had Sergio Ramos still been at Madrid, one might have been expecting a similar arrangement for Sunday.

'Party of the champions'

The only other time this century that the pasillo has been such a contentious subject was in 2008, when Madrid did receive one in El Clasico.

The 2007-08 season was a dire one for Barca. Not only did Madrid win the title comfortably with 18 points more than their great rivals, but Frank Rijkaard's men also finished 10 points adrift of second-placed Villarreal.

 

Although Barca crushed Valencia 6-0 leading up to the Clasico clash on May 7, 2008, they were unable to prevent Madrid claiming the title, setting things up perfectly for the ultimate humiliation.

"The party of the champions", read the front page of Madrid-based daily newspaper AS on the morning of the game. Notoriously pro-Madrid Marca went with "Barca is here", accompanying a picture showing where the visitors were due to form their guard of honour. And Catalan publication Sport highlighted the other side of things, saying, "the pasillo that suffers alone", and adding, "Barca fans do not deserve to have to see the pasillo".

Despite the shameless nose-rubbing of the Madrid press and the intense humiliation that was about to befall them, Barca gritted their teeth. "Although it hurts, we will do it," Rijkaard said.

Club captain Carles Puyol sang from a similar hymn sheet: "As an athlete you have to recognise the champion, and we will do that. They have won it on the pitch. Real Madrid have been fair champions."

The emotions of the two coaches that night could not have been more different. Rijkaard slowly ambled out and took his position, hands together behind his back, before the Barca players jogged out and formed two columns either side of the halfway line, the cameras of the Bernabeu crowd incessantly flashing with glee.

Meanwhile, Bernd Schuster watched on as his Madrid side triumphantly walked through that red-and-blue-walled corridor, twenty years after he was a part of the last guard of honour Barca performed in El Clasico, wearing a Blaugrana jersey.

Some, such as Pepe, Fernando Gago and Wesley Sneijder walked straight down the middle, seemingly preserving the thoughts of a true rivalry by refusing to thank their counterparts for the degrading act of a Clasico pasillo, but looking back, that was the least embarrassing part of the whole night for Barca.

What started with a pasillo ended in a pasting, with Barca flattered by a 4-1 defeat in which Madrid were utterly dominant.

Atletico will at least avoid one form of humiliation, but considering the contrasting fortunes of the two teams on the pitch this term, it's hardly a given that Diego Simeone's side will prevent a mauling.

Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos revealed Carlo Ancelotti sought advice from senior players when making tactical changes in the incredible Champions League semi-final win over Manchester City.

A late double from substitute Rodrygo – who became the first player in Champions League history to score twice in the 90th minute of a knockout match – saw Los Blancos force extra time in Madrid. Karim Benzema's penalty then secured a 6-5 aggregate triumph and kept alive Madrid's hopes of a 14th crown in the competition.

Madrid boss Ancelotti has now reached a fifth Champions League final, having done so in 2003, 2005 and 2007 with Milan, and in 2014 and 2022 across two spells with the Spanish champions, and his introduction of Rodrygo, who replaced Kroos after 68 minutes, proved vital.

Fellow substitute Eduardo Camavinga also produced an outstanding display from the bench as Madrid qualified for their 17th European Cup/Champions League final.

Kroos, 32, revealed he and other senior players were asked for input on Ancelotti's switches, saying the Italian's ability to communicate with his players makes him an elite coach.

"The coach himself had a few doubts about who he would bring on and who not to bring on," Kroos told DAZN. "We [the players] have all seen a few football games ourselves. That allows you to exchange ideas a bit.

"That describes him really well and why things always work well with the team. It's outstanding. In the end he decides, but of course he's interested in our opinion."

Since 2003-04, which saw the introduction of the Champions League's last-16 knockout stage, Madrid became the only team to lose a game in each of the first three knockout rounds and still make the competition's final (losing 1-0 to Paris Saint-Germain in the last-16, 3-2 to Chelsea in the quarter-finals, and 4-3 to City in the semi-finals).

After Los Blancos set up a repeat of their 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool, in which a Gareth Bale double won the Spanish outfit their 13th European title, Kroos said he was struggling to explain the team's remarkable ability to bounce back from falling behind.

"It's amazing, we were out 26 times during the knockout phase and fought back 26 times," he added.

"It's sometimes difficult to explain, even for me, what happened in the last few minutes. That's the belief, that's the stadium, the combination is magical."

Juventus head coach Massimiliano Allegri added his voice to those congratulating Carlo Ancelotti and Real Madrid on their extraordinary win against Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals.

Los Blancos were 5-3 down on aggregate heading into the 90th minute at the Santiago Bernabeu before two goals from substitute Rodrygo forced extra time, and a Karim Benzema penalty sent Madrid through to the final, where they will meet Liverpool in Paris.

The victory marked the fifth time Ancelotti has guided a team to the Champions League final, the most of any manager in the competition's history, surpassing the four by Alex Ferguson, Marcello Lippi and his upcoming opponent in the French capital, Jurgen Klopp.

Speaking at a news conference ahead of Juve's game with relegation-threatened Genoa, Allegri was inevitably asked about Wednesday's remarkable game.

"It was a wonderful match," he said. "I have to congratulate Carlo Ancelotti because he did something extraordinary."

Focusing on his own team's goals, Allegri explained that while he is relieved to have secured Champions League football for next season after nearest rivals Roma could only draw 0-0 with Bologna on Sunday, he wants Juve to continue to set high standards, especially as they prepare for next week's Coppa Italia final against Inter.

"From now to the end of the championship we must try to score as many points as possible. We reached the minimum goal of fourth place with three matches to go, and we are happy with that. [Thursday] we will have to play a good match.

"The Coppa Italia is our goal [now]. At the start of the season, all competitions must be a goal. We will play this match on Wednesday and we are happy to be there."

The former Milan boss also insisted he will play the strongest team he can against Genoa as preparation for the clash with Inter, though did confirm that Danilo and Luca Pellegrini will be missing.

"Tomorrow our strongest line-up will be on the pitch. Danilo will rest and will be back with the team on Sunday morning. Pellegrini has an ankle injury and will not be available.

"Juan Cuadrado and Mattia De Sciglio will return."

Allegri was also asked about the impact of Dusan Vlahovic, January's big-money signing from Fiorentina who has seven goals in 17 appearances across all competitions since joining the Bianconeri.

"I am very happy with Vlahovic. I didn't expect him to be able to immerse himself so well in the team and in Juventus. He has done very well so far and I am really satisfied.

"He, like others, can only get better. Tomorrow he will likely play."

Carlo Ancelotti believes Real Madrid's history helped inspire their sensational Champions League semi-final comeback against Manchester City on Wednesday.

Los Blancos recovered from the brink of defeat to snatch a dramatic 3-1 victory at the Santiago Bernabeu and book their place in the final in Paris, where they will play Liverpool on May 28.

Ancelotti's side fell 5-3 behind on aggregate when Riyad Mahrez stuck for City in the 73rd minute, but Rodrygo struck twice in the space of 91 seconds to force extra-time.

And the hosts turned the tie on its head when Karim Benzema's penalty set up a showdown with Liverpool and a repeat of the 2018 final, which Madrid won 3-1 in Kyiv thanks to a stunning Gareth Bale cameo.

It was the third successive round in which the 13-time champions came from behind, having done the same against Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the last 16 and quarter-finals respectively.

Ancelotti is set to become the first manager to oversee five Champions League finals, and the Italian was full of praise for the determination demonstrated by his players.

"I cannot say we are used to living this kind of life," he told reporters. "But what happened tonight, it happened against Chelsea and also against PSG. 

"If you have to say why, it is the history of this club that helps us to keep going when it seems that we are gone. It gives you the strength to follow, to continue, to believe.

"The match was very competitive, but the team has not lowered its arms. Much of the merit is of the players, and of the fans who push inside and outside the stadium - in the previous days as well.

"The game was close to finished, and we managed to find the last energy we had. We played a good game against a strong rival. When we are able to equalise, we had a psychological advantage in extra-time. 

"It was difficult as City had control of the game but at the last opportunity, we were able to go to extra-time."

Ancelotti joined Madrid at the end of last season for a second spell in charge, having led Los Blancos to 'La Decima' during his first stint.

He became the first coach to win all of Europe's big five leagues when Madrid wrapped up a 35th LaLiga title on Saturday, and now can look forward to a reunion with Liverpool, who this time last year would have been considered his biggest rivals while the 62-year-old was in charge of Everton.

Ancelotti led Everton to their first win in a Merseyside at Anfield since 1999 in February 2021, and he is relishing going up against Jurgen Klopp's team once more.

"The feeling is that I am very happy, to participate in another final against a great team, I played against them as a player and as a coach," said Ancelotti, who beat Liverpool in the 2007 final with Milan, but famously lost on penalties to the Reds two years earlier in Istanbul.

"I lived there [in Liverpool] for two years. For me, it's like a derby, I still support Everton."

Jack Grealish strode clear with Dani Carvajal in his dust in the 87th minute. The England star sauntered past Thibaut Courtois with a clever shimmy before passing the ball towards the empty Real Madrid goal.

Manchester City were going 2-0 up at the Santiago Bernabeu, 6-3 up on aggregate. They were going to Paris and a second successive Champions League final, with their season-defining rivalry with Liverpool heading into another engrossing chapter.

Only, that's not quite how it turned out.

Grealish didn't get his goal. Ferland Mendy's desperate lunge into his own net blocked the ball on the line – his clearance even failed to go in off the lurking Phil Foden, who was well-positioned to nudge home.

Of course, City were still going through with their lead on the night at 1-0, but Carlo Ancelotti's Real Madrid are like the White Walkers from Game of Thrones. You might think they're dead, but they just keep coming back.

For so long it looked as though Pep Guardiola had produced something of a masterclass.

Had you shown an unassuming observer the first halves of these two semi-final clashes, the idea that it was the same teams involved simply wouldn't have entered their mind.

Last week's first leg in Manchester went down as an instant Champions League classic, with City taking a 2-1 lead in the break – it was a thrill ride almost from start to finish thanks to attacking ingenuity and defensive mishaps.

It took a little while to get to that stage on Wednesday – in fact, for most of the evening it didn't look like were going to get there at all.

While the onus was undoubtedly on Madrid, there was more than a hint of tension in their performance as they struggled to retain possession and pass through City, who themselves appeared far more willing to play patiently.

And that was perhaps why Madrid simply couldn't find their rhythm. City attacked with purpose and pace last week, leaving spaces for Los Blancos to exploit on the break, but Guardiola didn't need his team to be quite so cavalier so long as they retained their aggregate lead.

A dreadful Vinicius miss just after the restart suggested Madrid's luck was out, though the greater directness that spawned the chance saw them ditch their first-half attempts of intricacy, which never worked against an intensely well-organised City.

That didn't quite usher in a period of Madrid domination, though. Riyad Mahrez slammed into the top-right corner to put City 5-3 up on aggregate with 73 minutes played, and that point City fans will have been loading up Sky Scanner, scouring for flights to Paris. The job was surely done.

Grealish then stepped up late on. Few would've worried that his inability to get that shot past Mendy was a precursor to more mayhem, but three minutes later – after Courtois had denied City's record signing with a long leg – Madrid had themselves a lifeline.

Rodrygo, who has enjoyed something of a coming-of-age tale at Madrid recently, brilliantly got in front of his marker and glanced Karim Benzema's pass beyond Ederson with the flick of his right foot.

Madrid's remarkable ability to turn defeats into victories has characterised a fine campaign for the Spanish champions. Both at home and in Europe, Ancelotti's team have defied the odds to dig themselves out of trouble on an incredibly routine basis.

Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and to an extent City in the first leg of the semi-final, have all seen Madrid's character up close and personal, but surely this was going to be one uphill battle too far?

It wasn't. Ninety-one seconds after providing a little belief, Rodrygo produced a wonderful header that secured one of the unlikeliest of extra-time periods you're ever likely to see, and from there you felt destiny was only taking this one way.

As quiet as Benzema was – by his usual standards, anyway – he still managed to have the final say, stepping in front of Ruben Dias to win a penalty early on in extra-time. He didn't attempt another 'Panenka', but he was no less accurate.

Benzema has now scored 10 goals in the Champions League knockout stages for Madrid this season, the joint-most by a player in a single campaign along with Cristiano Ronaldo in 2016-17 (also for Los Blancos).

It was only fitting that the 43-goal man who has been so crucial to virtually every major win of Madrid's this season was there to have the decisive say once again... And decisive it was. City's desperate late attacks fell flat against Los Blancos' flat-back 10.

When Grealish raced clear with three minutes of regulation time left, a Liverpool v Real Madrid final was inconceivable. City had qualification in the palm of their hands.

But Madrid make the inconceivable routine. Now they'll look to seal their 14th European title on May 28.

Guardiola, meanwhile, has now suffered elimination from six Champions League semi-finals (as many as Jose Mourinho) and has to rally his troops for a Premier League title race that is set to go to the wire.

Carlo Ancelotti will be the first coach to oversee a team in five Champions League finals after Real Madrid's remarkable comeback against Manchester City.

Ancelotti, who returned to Madrid for a second spell in charge at the end of last season, became the first coach to win all of Europe's top five leagues when Los Blancos wrapped up their 35th LaLiga title on Saturday.

But it appeared a shot at a double would be evading Madrid when Riyad Mahrez struck in the 73rd minute at the Santiago Bernabeu to put City 1-0 up on Wednesday and 5-3 up in the tie.

However, two goals in the space of 91 seconds from Rodrygo restored parity on aggregate to force extra-time and then up stepped Karim Benzema to score from the penalty spot and complete one of the most outrageous comebacks in the competition's history.

Indeed, Madrid were responsible for another one of those in the last 16, against Paris Saint-Germain, and they also fought back from the brink against Chelsea. Liverpool are up next.

That meeting with the Reds in Paris will be Ancelotti's history-making fifth Champions League final.

Stats Perform looks at how the other four played out.

2003 - Juventus 0-0 Milan (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Ancelotti first reached the final of UEFA's elite club competition as a manager 19 years ago, when his Milan team took on fellow Italian giants Juventus at Old Trafford. An infamously dull affair, it ended as a goalless draw after 120 minutes, resulting in a penalty shoot-out. Andriy Shevchenko scored the winning spot-kick.

2005 - Milan 3-3 Liverpool (AET, 2-3 on penalties)

Milan and Ancelotti reached the final again two years later, and it proved a famous night in Istanbul. Milan led through Paolo Maldini and Hernan Crespo's brace, but Liverpool astonishingly hit back in the second half and then went on to triumph 3-2 in the shoot-out, with Jerzy Dudek – who made an outstanding stop in extra-time – the Reds' hero.

2007 - Milan 2-1 Liverpool 

The Rossoneri were back and out for revenge in 2007, and they got it in Athens. Filippo Inzaghi put Milan 2-0 up, with Durk Kuyt's late effort not enough to inspire another comeback.

2014 - Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (AET)

Perhaps Ancelotti's most famous Champions League triumph to date came in 2014 when, in his first spell at Madrid, he led the club to 'La Decima'. They were trailing 1-0 to rivals Atletico Madrid until the 93rd minute, when Sergio Ramos struck. Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo wrapped up a runaway victory in extra-time.

On the back of becoming the first manager to win a clean sweep of trophies in Europe's top five leagues, Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti suggested his coaching career – at club level, at least – is nearing its end.

"After Real, yes, I'll probably stop," he told Amazon Prime in an interview released on Monday. "I'd like to be with my grandchildren, go on vacation with my wife – there are so many things to do that I have left out that I would like to do. The day I quit, I'll have all these things to do."

That did come with a caveat, though. "If the club keeps me here for 10 years, I'll train for 10 years," Ancelotti added, before leaving the door open for a move into international management ahead of the 2026 World Cup.

One month shy of his 63rd birthday, making him the oldest manager to win LaLiga, Ancelotti can be forgiven for thinking of retirement and life beyond football. He has won everything there is to win, after all, including a record-equalling three European Cups.

And yet, for all his success, which includes 20 major trophies across a 26-year managerial career spanning five countries, laid-back Ancelotti is arguably looked down upon when compared to fellow heavyweights such as Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola.

The latter in particular has built a reputation – rightly – for being a philosophy-driven coach who is obsessed with the finer details. Sometimes a little too obsessed when it comes to Champions League football, some might say.

Ancelotti, on the other hand, is old-fashioned in a sense, a coach who learned his trade in the days that managers would regularly be seen puffing away on cigarettes in the dugout, rather than analysing opposition tactics on a tablet.

It was a cigar Ancelotti was seen enjoying last weekend as Madrid toasted LaLiga title glory in his first campaign back, showing there is more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to coaching philosophy.

The Serie A, Premier League, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and LaLiga-winning coach may yet add a record fourth Champions League to his glittering CV come the end of the month, though for that to happen Madrid must first overturn a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's semi-final second leg with Guardiola's Manchester City.

The opening 90 minutes in Manchester last week produced the joint-highest scoring semi-final first leg in the competition's history, alongside Liverpool's 5-2 win over Roma four years ago, and also provided a snapshot into the two styles of not just Madrid and City but also their respective coaches.

City enjoyed 60 per cent of possession and completed 541 passes to Madrid's 336 – and an extra 248 in the opposition half – which is reflective of how both sides have played this season. 

The Citizens, much like Barcelona during Guardiola's trophy-laden four-year spell in charge, have become perfectly shaped to fit to the Catalan's own style. They have completed 31,385 passes across their 53 games this season, which is more than any other side from Europe's top five leagues.

Madrid also feature high on that list, down in fifth behind Chelsea, Liverpool and Paris Saint-Germain. They also rank fifth among European clubs for goals scored this season with 108. Yet, when you think of an Ancelotti side, you might struggle to immediately describe the default style of play.

Resilient, perhaps? The resilience to score three goals in the space of 17 minutes en route to eliminating PSG with a 3-2 comeback win in the last 16; the resilience to pick themselves up when trailing Chelsea 4-3 on aggregate late on in the quarter-finals, only to advance 5-4.

Ancelotti's football may not have been revolutionary in the same way that Guardiola helped to transform Barcelona, Bayern Munich and City, yet the Italian has succeeded most places he has gone, not least this season with Madrid on course for their joint-highest LaLiga points haul since tallying 100 in 2011-12.

With a few simple tweaks, not least getting Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior working in tandem, Ancelotti has improved Madrid both in an attacking sense and defensively – even if they did ship four goals against City last week.

And so, while he may not be a perceived as a football 'philosopher' or someone who enjoys antagonising his counterparts, Ancelotti – in his 178th Champions League game in charge – has the chance to further prove he has stood the test of time when Guardiola's double-chasing City travel to the Spanish capital.

Should Los Blancos pull off another memorable comeback and go on and lift the trophy in Paris later this month, there would be no better way for Madrid's quiet leader to bring down the curtain on a legendary coaching career.

Carlo Ancelotti knows Real Madrid must produce a "complete" performance against Manchester City to reach the Champions League final, as he confirmed David Alaba is out of the second leg.

Madrid were beaten 4-3 by Premier League leaders City in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium last week.

Los Blancos responded to that defeat by thrashing Espanyol 4-0 on Saturday to win their 35th LaLiga title in style.

Ancelotti, who is the first coach to have triumphed across all of Europe's big five leagues and has stated that Madrid will be the last club he coaches, believes his side have a great chance to overturn a deficit when they face Pep Guardiola's side at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday if they are their very best.

The wily Madrid boss told reports on the eve of the match: "The game has to be complete. The low block has to be better than the first leg, the pressure has to be well done to avoid passes between lines and transitions. 

"We are not going to propose a game with a low block, that's for sure, but at some moments of the game it will be. The game has to be complete."

According to Ancelotti, Madrid will be without Alaba due to a hamstring injury, despite the Austria defender having been named in the squad. However, he has faith in Nacho Fernandez to perform.

He said: "Alaba can't play. I don't have doubts, it will possibly be a long game too but it's not so important who starts as it is who finishes it.

"The defence system is the same. Alaba is an important player but Nacho's played very well this season. He's experienced and I'm sure he'll put on a good performance tomorrow."

Another player who will start is Casemiro and Ancelotti expects the fit-again Brazil midfielder to make Los Blancos much more difficult to break down.

The Italian said: "His return is going to help us, it reinforces the defensive aspect, in which we have to improve, also in collective commitment, moving better as a block, being more compact 

"We have worked on the defensive aspect. I think we will see improvement."

Madrid have been crowned European champions a record 13 times, but Ancelotti believes that will count for nothing when they attempt to reach yet another final.

"History won't have an impact tomorrow," he said: "It will be different, each game has its own history. They have an edge and we are aware of it.

"We have to do our best. It will be a tough game but we've got an incredible opportunity to play another Champions League final and we've already won the league, so the atmosphere will be good and it's something we can pull off."

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