Ancelotti defends stifling Italian-style defense

MUNICH (AP) For Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti, catenaccio is a beautiful word.

The term used to describe the kind of stifling defense long practiced by Italian teams where 1-0 wins at home and 0-0 draws away were the norm has no negative connotations for Ancelotti.

”Catenaccio is not a bad word,” Ancelotti said.

Asked if Madrid may turn to catenaccio to protect its one-goal first-leg lead and frustrate Bayern, Ancelotti smiled and replied: ”Sometimes, catenaccio is not bad. I am Italian and we won a lot with catenaccio.”

Ancelotti was speaking Monday, on the eve of Real Madrid’s return leg at Bayern Munich of their Champions League semifinal tie. Technically, catenaccio was not even a purely Italian invention. It was perfected by Helenio Herrera, an Argentine-born coach of Inter Milan.

Real won 1-0 at home, although Bayern dominated possession, especially in the first half. But Real struck on the counterattack and could have scored more goals.

Bayern’s game, centered on as much possession as possible, has been vulnerable in recent games, not only in Madrid. In the last three Bundesliga matches, Bayern has conceded eight goals to teams using massive defense and fast breaks.

Ancelotti conceded that his team was under pressure at the start of the Madrid leg, although Karim Benzema finished off a swift counterattack for the only goal in the 19th minute.

”We don’t need to be timid, we don’t need to be afraid, so we will have to change something, especially at the start of the match,” Ancelotti said.

Ancelotti said he did not expect major in tactics by either team, but added that he might change ”a bit.”

”The mental element is more important,” he said.

Ancelotti knows what he is talking about. He is one of six men to have won the Champions league as both player and coach – twice in each capacity, all with AC Milan.

The Madrid coach said he expected a ”difficult, complicated match.”

Winger Gareth Bale said the entire team was ready to defend if necessary.

”But hopefully we’ll be able to play some football as well, we don’t usually sit back and defend,” Bale said.

With Cristiano Ronaldo and Benzema up front as well, Real has one of the most formidable attacks in the game now.

”It’s going to be very, very hard, this one goal lead doesn’t really mean much,” Bale said.

Bayern coach Pep Guardiola doesn’t believe Madrid is here to defend.

”I know Ancelotti’s mentality and I rate his football. I can’t imagine he will defend the result for 90 minutes. Of course we know what we need. We need more than one goal to progress. We also have fast players but they are always in a position to hurt us,” Guardiola said earlier Monday.

”Madrid is a fast team. If you lose the ball you have to get back into position straight away. They’re one of the fastest teams in the world,” Guardiola said.