Carlo Ancelotti said on Wednesday veteran midfielders Luka Modric and Toni Kroos are still key for Real Madrid even though he dropped the pair last weekend.
Los Blancos won 2-0 at Athletic Bilbao on Sunday and the duo appeared from the bench, with Eduardo Camavinga and Dani Ceballos starting ahead of them.
Modric, 37, and Kroos, 33 – both out of contract at the end of the season – face stiff internal competition this season, with Ancelotti highlighting that Madrid are in a period of transition.
“They are professionals and understand what this club means,” Ancelotti told reporters ahead of Thursday’s Copa del Rey quarter-final with Atletico Madrid.
“They know the quality this squad has and I don’t think I have to explain anything.
“We’ve been speaking from the start of the season about this topic, it’s a moment of transition and everyone has to understand it, the young players and the veterans.”
Modric joined Real Madrid in 2012 while Kroos arrived in 2014 and together they have formed an essential part of the team’s success.
They have won three La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues together, among other silverware.
Until this season they had Casemiro behind them too, but the Brazilian moved to Manchester United last summer, with Aurelien Tchouameni taking that role this season.
Ancelotti said despite being dropped against Athletic, the duo will still play an essential role for Madrid.
“Of course they can play together, they are performing this season and have been key, and they will keep on being so,” added the coach.
Ancelotti admitted that Fede Valverde, another midfield option, has not hit his best form again after the World Cup.
The Uruguayan was spectacular in the first half of the campaign but is struggling to return to those heights.
“He’s not at his best level, he’s progressing, he’s performing – not like in the first half of the season, I consider that normal given the World Cup,” said Ancelotti.
“We have to be patient. We’re not asking him to score goals, we’re asking him to deliver defensively and in attack, and when he’s back to his best he will score again.”