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Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti calls Man City Champions League favourites

  /  autty

Carlo Ancelotti has conferred the Champions League favourites tag upon Manchester City but the Real Madrid head coach insisted there may be some “surprises at the end”.

The most successful side in Europe’s premier club competition with 14 wins, including lifting the trophy five times in the last decade, Madrid are often tipped to progress into the latter stages at the outset.

But Real, who open their Group C campaign on Wednesday against Union Berlin at the Bernabeu, were eliminated in ruthless fashion at the semi-final stage by Pep Guardiola’s treble-winning City side in May.

Carlo Ancelotti and Pep Guardiola

It is the Premier League giants that have a target on their backs, according to Ancelotti, who nevertheless intimated no team can ever take anything for granted.

“City are favourites because they have a squad that saw them win it last season and they haven’t changed much,” Ancelotti told a press conference.

“However, in the Champions League, like always, there are surprises at the end.

“Real Madrid are a team that are going to fight until the end. We never think of ourselves as favourites, just as I think City don’t.

“But they won it last year, they can win the Champions League. You could say they are the favourites.”

Luka Modric

Luka Modric has started only once in this campaign and Toni Kroos just twice, with Ancelotti favouring younger options such as Jude Bellingham and Aurelien Tchouameni in the middle of the park.

Ancelotti acknowledged Modric, the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner and widely regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of his era, is adjusting to less playing time but the Croatian will feature on Wednesday.

“He’s fine, I speak to him every day like I do with all the players,” Ancelotti said. “It’s a personal relationship that we have.

“The fact that he is not playing as much as he used to can sometimes affect him a bit. But that doesn’t affect the personal relationship, which is still fantastic and will continue to be fantastic. He’s going to play (against Union).”

Lucas Vazquez will replace the injured Dani Carvajal at full-back for Madrid, who face an unknown quantity having never before played against Union.

Lucas Vazquez

The Bundesliga side, who finished fourth in the division last season, are the dark horses in a group also containing Serie A champions Napoli and Portuguese outfit Braga.

A trip to the Spanish capital to take on the Champions League’s most prolific side represents a daunting challenge for Union, who are in the competition for the first time in their history.

“They’re a new team in the Champions League but the fact they’re here means they’ve done very well,” Ancelotti added.

“They’re well-organised defensively, they’re solid and they play with intensity. We’ve studied them carefully and hopefully we can put in a good performance. We will need to play at a high intensity.

“We’re ready, like last year. The Champions League is a special competition for us. We’re going to treat the game as something special. We want to get off to a good start.”