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‘I won’t sink to level’ of Xavi, Laporta in ref row – Ancelotti


Carlo Ancelotti has said he “won’t sink to the level” of Barcelona coach Xavi Hernández and president Joan Laporta after the pair accused Real Madrid of “influencing the competition” with its criticism of LaLiga referees.

Real Madrid TV has regularly broadcast videos highlighting refereeing mistakes before and after games this season, while Barcelona’s long-term relationship with officials has also come under scrutiny in the ongoing investigation into payments made by the club to a company linked to the former vice-president of Spain’s refereeing body, Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira.

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In an interview with Catalan radio station RAC1 on Friday, Laporta said Madrid “weren’t behaving well” with their participation in the Negreira case, and described Real Madrid TV’s videos as “shameful,” calling on the Spanish football federation to “get involved” in the matter.

Xavi later backed Laporta’s comments in a news conference and said: “I share the president’s words 100%” and added that “[the videos] influence the competition completely, week after week. A blind person can see it.”

Ancelotti refused to be drawn on the comments when they were put to him in a news conference on Saturday, ahead of Real Madrid’s LaLiga derby with Atlético Madrid.

“I’m a professional, and as a professional, I don’t want to sink to that level, out of respect to Spanish football,” Ancelotti said when asked about Xavi’s comments. “Don’t ask me about that any more. I don’t want to sink [to that]. It isn’t a level for professionals.”

When pushed on Laporta’s comments, he repeated: “I already said, I won’t sink to that level.”

Real Madrid go into Sunday’s derby top of LaLiga on 57 points, 10 clear of Atlético in third place, after winning 2-0 at Getafe on Thursday.

However they’re facing a defensive injury crisis, with Antonio Rüdiger a doubt for the game after picking up a knock against Getafe, with fellow centre back options Éder Militão, David Alaba and Aurélien Tchouaméni also unavailable.

“Rüdiger has improved a lot in the last few days,” Ancelotti said. “We hope for the same improvement between today and tomorrow. It’s a blow to the muscle, it’s not that serious, but we have to evaluate it. It gives us a lot of confidence that he’s improved a lot in the last 24 hours, he’ll be in the squad and tomorrow I’ll decide if he can play or not.”

Sunday’s derby will be the fourth time that Real and Atletico have met this season, with Atlético coming out on top in the most recent meeting, a 4-2 victory after extra time in the Copa del Rey round of 16 on January 18.

“Yes, [Simeone] is one of the most difficult [opponents I’ve faced],” Ancelotti said. “He manages the team very well and organises the games very well. Honestly, they’re one of the opponents I have the most respect for.”

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