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Ancelotti: Madrid can cope without Bellingham

Carlo Ancelotti has backed his Real Madrid team to cope without the injured Jude Bellingham, after the star midfielder was ruled out of Tuesday’s Champions League round-of-16 first leg against RB Leipzig with a sprained ankle.

Bellingham limped off in the 57th minute of Saturday’s 4-0 LaLiga win over Girona — a result which put Madrid five points clear at the top of the league table — with sources telling ESPN the England international was expected to be absent for three weeks.

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Bellingham is Madrid’s top scorer this season with 20 goals in all competitions, including four in five Champions League appearances so far as the LaLiga giants topped their group.

“We never think about those [players] who aren’t here,” Ancelotti said in a pre-match news conference in Leipzig on Monday. “It’s more fair to think about those who are here. Without Bellingham, we’ve won four games out of four [this season]. Those who’ve replaced him have done well, whether it’s Brahim [Díaz] or Joselu.

“Bellingham is a very good player — like [Thibaut] Courtois,[Éder] Militão, [David] Alaba — but tomorrow it’s an opportunity to be even more motivated.”

Madrid’s midfielder Toni Kroos said he hasn’t yet decided whether to extend his contract at the club beyond this summer, and whether to make a surprise return to the Germany national team for the Euros, after retiring in 2021.

“I always tell you the truth, and the truth is I don’t know,” Kroos said. “I’m thinking about what I want to do. I haven’t decided anything yet. It makes me happy that people want me to play one more year, that’s better than the other way around, wanting me to stop!”

Kroos, who has excelled for Madrid this season, earned 106 caps for Germany, winning the 2014 World Cup, before retiring after Euro 2020.

“It depends on a lot of things,” Kroos said. “I want to end my career at the highest level possible. I’m enjoying the moment. I deserve a bit more time to take the decision, I want it to be the correct one… And the same for the national team. I’m thinking about it, but like with my renewal, I don’t know.”

“For me it’s hard to say which is his best season, because he’s always the best,” Ancelotti said when asked about the Germán. “His percentage of [completed] passes is the same as he had ten years ago… His quality hasn’t changed.

“He’s playing in a team with a lot of energy, and his quality in managing the game with the ball stands out. The [Real Madrid] youngsters have a lot of energy and within that, he stands out.”

“It’s his decision and you have to respect that,” Ancelotti added. “You have to go out on top. But you have to choose the right time. For Toni Kroos, this year could be the top, or it could be next year.”

A strike by security staff at Leipzig airport saw Madrid forced to fly to Erfurt, around 90 miles from Leipzig, and complete their journey by bus.

The German newspaper Bild reported that Madrid’s bus was involved in a minor collision with a car en route, although there were no reports of any injuries.

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