Juventus are stronger challengers than Bayern or Chelsea – Ancelotti

The Real Madrid boss believes the Italian champions are more likely to stop his side’s bid to retain their Champions League crown this season

Carlo Ancelotti has suggested Juventus will pose a greater threat to Real Madrid’s Champions League crown than Bayern Munich or Chelsea this season.

Madrid have been drawn against Bundesliga outfit Schalke in the last 16 of the competition as they look to become the first side to retain the trophy in its modern format.

Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and Pep Guardiola’s Bayern both reached the last four last season and have enjoyed impressive starts to their respective campaigns, but Ancelotti believes both teams have too many young players who do not yet possess the experience needed to succeed in the latter stages.

“They [Juventus] are a great team,” he told Tuttosport. “Bayern or Chelsea have several world champions and players with international experience, but are just missing that bit of maturity in the youngsters.”

Madrid have won their previous 22 competitive outings but suffered a 4-2 friendly defeat to AC Milan on Tuesday – though Ancelotti does not believe it will hamper their chances of victory against Valencia this weekend.

“It is a defeat that does not hurt at all. After a week of vacation we needed a game like this to prepare for the trip to Valencia. It serves to recover our rhythm,” Ancelotti concluded.

“Milan played well and we did not, but that does not ruin everything good that we did in 2014. We are very pleased with a fantastic year.”

Official: Bayern Munich to sign Germany rising star Kimmich

The midfielder, who won the European Under-19 Championship last year, will join the Bundesliga champions at the end of the season

Bayern Munich have announced that rising Germany star Joshua Kimmich will join the club at the end of the season.

The defensive midfielder, who is currently on loan at 2. Bundesliga side RB Leipzig, has agreed a five-year contract with the German champions after Bayern and parent club Stuttgart settled on an undisclosed fee.

The 19-year-old will join Pep Guardiola’s side on July 1 this year.

#FCBayern and VfB Stuttgart have reached an agreement for the transfer of Joshua #Kimmich on 1st July 2015. More to follow later…

— FC Bayern English (@FCBayernEN) January 2, 2015

Kimmich, who has represented Germany at every youth level up in his early career, was part of the Under-19 side which won the European Championship last year.

He has made 14 appearances in all competitions so far this season, registering two assists.

Bayern must win big games – Dante

The defender says it is important his side hold their nerve in the second half of the season and try to extend their 11-point league at the top of the Bundesliga

Dante has called on Bayern Munich to display their big game temperament as they continue their pursuit of silverware on three fronts.

The Bavarian giants have built a commanding 11-point lead in the Bundesliga ahead of their return to domestic action against second-place Wolfsburg on January 30. 

With a 25th German title seemingly on the way, as well as forthcoming fixtures in the DFB-Pokal and Champions League, Dante has warned against taking their league form for granted.

“We are very pleased about the big lead we have so far, we have done great, but we must win the big games,” he told Kicker.

“Bundesliga games are always important but if we continue to stay focused, we can maintain this advantage.”

The Brazil international has featured frequently for Pep Guardiola this campaign but is keen to nail down his spot in the starting line-up with Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez waiting to add competition when they return from injury.

“Every time I’m on the pitch, I try to show that I’m here to help our team,” he added.

“But if I do not play a few games, I’m not so happy.

“No matter what the coach decides, it is important that we win everything at the end.”

Guardiola has improved other teams – Mascherano

The midfielder believes the impact of his former coach has been far reaching, with other managers attempting to replicate his passing philosophy

Barcelona midfielder Javier Mascherano says Pep Guardiola “improved a lot of teams in a lot of leagues” with the tiki-taka style he implemented while in charge at Camp Nou.

The Spaniard pioneered his passing philosophy, focused on fast, short passes and pressing the opposition high up the pitch in a striker-less formation, during four success-laden years in the Barca dug-out.

That model has since been replicated by a number of sides across the globe, while Guardiola himself has sought to transplant that style into his Bayern Munich side in the Bundesliga.

As a result Mascherano believes the 43-year-old has unintentionally helped a number of teams become better and raised the quality of football across Europe.

Guardiola was a perfectionist,” he said to Fox Sports. “He took us the closest to excellence and perfection. The best teams have a style, a philosophy of playing.

“Barcelona showed you can win everything while playing beautiful football at a time when it was believed that you could not win in style.

“Without wanting to disrespect other teams and coaches, Guardiola created a winning style that a lot of teams then copied. Barcelona did not only improve themselves, but improved a lot of teams in a lot of leagues.” 

Guardiola departed Barcelona in 2012 and embarked upon a year-long sabbatical before returning to management with Bayern, replacing Jupp Heynckes in the Allianz Arena hotseat in 2013.

He lifted the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal in his first season in charge but suffered a humiliating 5-0 aggregate defeat to Real Madrid over two legs in the Champions League semi-finals last term.

Germany must 'reinvent' themselves – Low

Despite their World Cup win in the summer, the coach believes his team must improve in several areas if they are to continue their success into Euro 2016

Joachim Low believes Germany have to “reinvent” in some areas of the team if they are to follow up their World Cup win with Euro 2016 glory.

An incredible 7-1 win over Brazil in the semi-final was followed up by a 1-0 extra-time victory over Argentina as Die Mannschaft went on to lift the world crown in the summer.

The Germans are already one of the favourites to win Euro 2016, but Low insists they cannot expect to have any chance if they do not progress further.

“Now we are at our peak,” he told the German Press Agency. “We are world champions and No.1 in the world rankings.

“We must keep this good base, but we also have to find new solutions. Our competitors are also developing further.

“The goal is to build on our success at the World Cup in 2016. Now, going forward, we need to reinvent ourselves in some areas. That’s the objective.”

The 54-year-old also heaped praise upon captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, stating he is a “true leader”.

“I have great faith in Basti as team captain,” he added. “He is a great strategist in midfield. He has matured into a true leader.

“Especially in the World Cup final you could see that he was everywhere and has worked endlessly. Just at the crucial and important phases, he stepped up immensely with all of his strength and experience.”