MADRID: Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti sought to calm the waters around their highly anticipated match at Valencia on Saturday, when his team will return to a stadium where Brazil winger Vinicius Jr was racially abused last year.

Anticipating a fiery atmosphere, Spanish authorities declared the match ‘high risk’ and ordered police reinforcements. It will be the first time Real and 23-year-old Vinicius have been back to Mestalla since May 2023, when racist slurs were allegedly hurled at the Brazilian.

The 64-year-old Ancelotti, however, tried to tone down the palpable tension in the air, saying that his side were focused on playing football and strengthening their already solid grip atop the LaLiga table.

“Our idea is to go and play a strong game, and Valencia’s idea is the same. The teams and the fans want a spectacle,” Ancelotti told a press conference on Friday.

“We must not forget last year, because racist acts must be condemned and identified. Valencia did very well, identifying those who committed a crime.”

Ancelotti dismissed any thoughts of resting Vinicius at Valencia and said they had not been focused on the hostile environment they could be up against at Mestalla.

“We didn’t talk anything special, he (Vinicius) is ready, as he always is,” Ancelotti said.

“He is doing what he can to be as good as possible and I have nothing more to add.”

Ancelotti was full of praise for Vinicius, who is set to play his 250th game for Real.

“I don’t see a ceiling for him,” Ancelotti said.

“Since he has arrived, I have seen a constant progression. The quality and talent that he has makes him capable of scoring goals and handing assists naturally.

“Because of the humility he has, the sky is the limit, his best quality is that he really enjoys playing football.”

Real Madrid have 65 points, six ahead of second-placed Girona, who play at Mallorca on Sunday when Barcelona, who are third on 57 points, visit Athletic Bilbao. Valencia are ninth on 36 points.

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