Carlo Ancelotti insisted Real Madrid are not favourites to beat Barcelona in the Supercopa de Espana and would be worried if his players thought otherwise.
Wednesday’s Clasico in Riyadh will determine who will face either Athletic Bilbao or Atletico Madrid in the Supercopa final on Sunday.
Madrid were 2-1 winners at Camp Nou in the previous meeting in LaLiga in October, and the gap between the sides has only widened since.
Los Blancos sit top of the league table after 21 matches, with Barca in sixth, 17 points behind their great rivals.
Ancelotti, though, thinks that will count for little with a place in the final up for grabs.
“I’d be worried if the players thought we were favourites, but they don’t think that. They think we have to do everything to win,” the Madrid coach said on Tuesday.
“These games are always balanced, however much of a gap there is in the table, just as the league game was balanced.
“When you play a game, you can win, draw or lose. The game will choose a winner. We have to play at our best level. We play against a team who are strong and who have the same objective, which is to reach the final.”
This will be Xavi’s first Clasico as Barca coach, the former Blaugrana midfielder having taken over from Ronald Koeman just two weeks after the 2-1 home defeat.
Although Xavi has earned praise for his use of young players and for striving to restore a typical style to Barca’s play, results have been disappointing, with the Catalans having won only five of 11 matches since his appointment.
Still, Ancelotti believes they are showing signs of progress in their performances.
“I like them because they’re a team with an identity, in the way Barca always have. I think they’re a team who are going to improve with [Xavi’s] contribution,” he said.
“They have experienced players like [Sergio] Busquets, [Gerard] Pique or [Jordi] Alba, who always give a lot to the team. But the youngsters they’re pushing forward stand out a lot, like Gavi or Nico, who can have a great future.”
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