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Carlo Ancelotti lavishes praise on “very special” Rodrygo, Federico Valverde

Carlo Ancelotti lavishes praise on “very special” Rodrygo, Federico Valverde

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti branded Rodrygo and Federico Valverde “very special players” following their displays in Sunday’s Madrid derby against Atletico Madrid.

Rodrygo was again given the nod through the middle in the absence of Karim Benzema, and he made the breakthrough in the 18th minute of the contest at Wanda Metropolitano.

Aurelien Tchouameni‘s clever pass picked out the Brazilian, who fired past Jan Oblak on the half-volley to hand Los Blancos a crucial lead against their rivals.

Real Madrid then scored their second of the contest in the 36th minute, with Valverde registering at the far post after Vinicius Junior had hit the woodwork.

Ancelotti lavished praise on the duo after the match, calling them “special both technically and physically”.

Real Madrid's Federico Valverde in action with Atletico Madrid's Koke on September 18, 2022© Reuters

“The two are very special players because they are modern footballers, who can play in different positions and who are special both technically and physically. We’re all delighted with how they’re doing,” Ancelotti told reporters.

The Italian also praised his players for dealing with the absence of Benzema, who has now missed the team’s last three matches due to a thigh problem.

“The team has done well in these games to replace Benzema. He might be our most important player, but we’re still very good without him. I can’t ask more of this team,” he added.

The victory over Atletico saw Real Madrid return to the top of the La Liga table, two points clear of second-placed Barcelona, who had moved to the summit on Saturday.

Real Madrid's Rodrygo celebrates scoring against Atletico Madrid on September 18, 2022© Reuters

Los Blancos comfortably won the La Liga title last season, finishing 13 points clear of Barcelona in second, but Ancelotti is expecting “a more competitive title race than last year”.

“Barcelona are doing very well and we’re doing very well. I think it’ll be a strange season and we don’t want to know what will happen after the World Cup,” said the 63-year-old.

“We or Barcelona could suffer a blip later on, like Atletico are suffering just now at the start. It’ll definitely be a more competitive title race than last year.”

Real Madrid, who have won all nine of their games in all competitions this term, will be back in action against Osasuna on October 2 before playing their third Champions League group game at Shakhtar Donetsk three days later.

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