BARCELONA, March 14 (Reuters) - Carlo Ancelotti is confident his Real Madrid squad can cope with the loss of Alvaro Arbeloa and has the strength in depth to maintain their challenge on three fronts this season.
Arbeloa suffered a tendon tear last weekend, and while the early diagnosis was that he would be back by the end of March, it looks as though he will struggle to be ready for the end of the season, putting his World Cup place in jeopardy.
The Spain international has faced competition for his place at Real from Dani Carvaja, but although the youth product has progressed well this season there will be a lot of responsibility on his shoulders in key games ahead.
“We are going to miss (Arbeloa‘s) attitude, training and his ability on the pitch, but we are going to have to cope as we have done with the loss of (Sami) Khedira,” Ancelotti told a news conference on Friday.
“We have Carvajal as well as Nacho who can play on both sides of the defence. Then there is Sergio Ramos, who would be the last option but he has played well there in the past.”
Real’s fine form has enabled them to open up a three-point lead at the top of La Liga before their game at Malaga on Saturday.
They have won 17 of the last 19 matches in all competitions, including a 6-1 first-leg victory over Schalke in the Champions League last 16. Barcelona also await in the final of the King’s Cup on April 16.
Ancelotti refused to get sidetracked by talk of the Clasico against Barcelona next weekend, which could go a long way to deciding the title. Barcelona are four points behind Real.
”We haven’t talked about this,“ the Italian said. ”We have talked about the game against Malaga, which is important, and I think the players are well prepared. We have been playing well in recent games and I have confidence in the players.
”We have said many times that at this stage of the season all the games are important. We have trained well and I don’t think there will be any relaxation against Malaga.
“Our destiny is in our hands. We must do our work well and make the most of this advantage by continuing to win games and fighting for ourselves.”
Editing by Stephen Wood