Carlo Ancelotti said table-topping Girona must be taken seriously and treated with “respect” as Real Madrid prepare to visit the surprise LaLiga leaders on Saturday.
Girona are unbeaten having won six and drawn one of their seven games so far this season and top LaLiga on 19 points, one ahead of Madrid and two ahead of Barcelona.
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“We have to give credit to what the table says,” Ancelotti told a news conference on Friday. “Girona have done better in these first games than the other [teams]. We have to respect that. Girona can fight.
“They have a big advantage: they aren’t playing in Europe and they can prepare well for the games. What affects teams most is the international competitions. We have injuries and tiredness.
“I look at the fixture list, and some players get back [after the international break] on Oct. 19 in the afternoon and we have to play at Sevilla on Oct. 21. If their flight gets delayed, I’ll have to say to the player ‘see you in Seville!'”
The last time Madrid travelled to Girona they were humbled 4-2 at Montilivi on April 25, with forward Taty Castellanos — now at Lazio — scoring all four goals for the hosts.
“Last year our league was over when we got [to Girona],” Ancelotti said. “It wasn’t a good night. What happened last season won’t happen tomorrow.”
Madrid suffered a 3-1 defeat to local rivals Atletico in the Madrid derby last weekend but bounced back on Wednesday with a 2-0 win over Las Palmas, a game that saw Vinícius Júnior return from injury as a second-half substitute.
“Vinicius is fine,” Ancelotti said. “He’ll start, and then we’ll see how long he can last. It depends what I ask him to do.”
Ancelotti said that defender Antonio Rüdiger would be fit to play against Girona as one of just two available centre-backs, after David Alaba was injured against Las Palmas.
He was also asked about the latest developments in the ‘Negreira case’ after Barcelona were charged with suspected bribery over payments made to companies linked to the former vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee.
“I’m worried by such an important matter, like everyone in football,” Ancelotti said. “We have to let justice do its job.”