Ancelotti backs ‘untouchable’ BBC

The Italian coach has said he will not drop his trio of under-fire forwards but has called for attacking improvements ahead of Real Madrid’s clash against Schalke

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says the presence of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldoin his starting XI is “non-negotiable” as he believes the ‘BBC’ trident forms the basis for his side’s identity.

The trio have come under fire recently following some poor performances culminating in a disappointing draw at home to Villarreal on March 1 and Saturday’s damaging defeat at Athletic Club which saw Ancelotti’s side lose top spot in La Liga to Barcelona.

Apart from Ronaldo’s two-match ban earlier in 2015, the three have been ever-present in the Madrid side this year and have scored just 15 goals between them in a combined 40 appearances.

Nevertheless, Ancelotti has ruled out making any changes to his famous forward line.

“As long as they are fit, their presence is non-negotiable because they have given us so much,” the 55-year-old said in the pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s Champions League last-16 second leg against Schalke on Tuesday.

“I have total confidence in them, without a doubt. There has been an overall dip in form, but not those three. The team aren’t helping the forwards very much at the moment.”

And he added: “We are going to line up the same way [against Schalke]. We are not going to change our identity because that is how we feel comfortable and that’s what gives us results. That identity won’t change, let that be clear.”

Asked if Bale should be left out after scoring only one goal in his last eight games, Ancelotti said: “[Then] I would have to change the whole team!  Benzema, Cristiano, the midfield… I have to make a general assessment for the good of the team. I think Bale is unhappy at how he is doing but he understands that and will try to do better.”

Ancelotti has resisted the temptation to call up January signing Martin Odegaard, who misses the chance to become the youngest player in Champions League history, but revealed that Luka Modric will feature after missing the last four months through injury.

“Odegaard is not on the list,” the Italian said. “He is doing well with Castilla and I can’t say how close he is to the first team.

“Modric will start on the bench. I will give him half an hour in the second half.”

On Madrid’s poor performance against Athletic on Sunday, the Italian said: “We played with too many touches. The play wasn’t fast enough and there wasn’t good co-ordination between the passing and the movement.”

Ancelotti was also asked about the Clasico clash on March 22 that could ultimately decide La Liga and said he hopes his side can build momentum for that match with positive performances against Schalke on Tuesday and Levante at the weekend.

“We have to go to Camp Nou on March 22 but before that we have to play Schalke and Levante,” he added. “Our confidence for the game on the 22nd will depend on that. I hope we can react positively and go there with as much confidence as possible.”