x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Iker Casillas to play league games to keep sharp for Uefa Champions League final

Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said captain Iker Casillas will play for the first time this season in the Primera Liga against Valladolid and Espanyol to keep him match fit for the Uefa Champions League final.

With so much time between the Uefa Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich and the final against Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has elected to give IIker Casillas game time in the Primera Liga's last four fixtures. Ancelotti had previously played Diego Lopez in the La Liga matches and Casillas in the Champions League games. Kerstin Joensson / AP Photo
With so much time between the Uefa Champions League semi-final win over Bayern Munich and the final against Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has elected to give IIker Casillas game time in the Primera Liga's last four fixtures. Ancelotti had previously played Diego Lopez in the La Liga matches and Casillas in the Champions League games. Kerstin Joensson / AP Photo

MADRID // Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said captain Iker Casillas will play for the first time this season in the Primera Liga against Valladolid and Espanyol to keep him match fit for the Uefa Champions League final.

Ancelotti took the unusual decision at the start of the campaign to play Diego Lopez in the league with Casillas keeping goal in the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.

However, with nearly a month between Real’s 4-0 thrashing on Tuesday of Bayern Munich to make the Champions League final for the first time in 12 years, and the final against local rivals Atletico Madrid on May 24, Ancelotti said that Casillas is in need of more game time.

The Italian confirmed Lopez will start against Valencia today and away to Celta Vigo next weekend.

Casillas will face Valladolid on Wednesday and Espanyol on the final day of the season.

“I have spoken with them and they are both in agreement,”Ancelotti said. “I have taken the decision because Casillas needs to play this month. I didn’t think it was fair to leave him out for a month to prepare for the final.”

Another player who could return to league action after six months out is Sami Khedira as Ancelotti said the German international would be available to face Valencia.

Khedira damaged a cruciate ligament in a friendly for Germany in November. He returned to training last month, and his presence could be a big boost for Ancelotti with Xabi Alonso suspended for the Champions League final.

“If he is available it means he can play,” Ancelotti said. “He has made a great recovery, he is in great shape and obviously he needs to play little by little, but there is the possibility he could play.” Real trail Atletico by six points, with a game in hand, and need to win when Valencia visit the Santiago Bernabeu to maintain any hope of a historic treble.

Even if their chase of Diego Simeone’s men is to be in vain, Ancelotti is determined to keep winning to go into the final against Atletico full of confidence. “It would be dangerous to lose our intensity, so the best way to not do that is to win,” he said.

Luka Modric will be out against Valencia with a calf problem, but Ancelotti has no other injury worries.

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