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La Liga - Football: Ancelotti steadies Real Madrid ship

Carlo Ancelotti made a surprise return to Real Madrid in the summer but with 11 games of the season left they are in a great position to reclaim the title.

They face a trip to Mallorca on Monday evening and could stretch their lead further at the top of the table with Sevilla their only realistic title challengers.

It has been a great season so far for Los Blancos who are also in the Champions League quarter-finals after their stunning comeback triumph against Ligue 1 side PSG at the Bernabeu.

Against Mallorca, Real can be backed to win at 8/15 with the home side priced at 5/1, and a draw available at 16/5.

Real seeing better defensive results

One of the reasons why Real's performance has improved under Ancelotti is that they have become much tougher to break down.

Under Zinedine Zidane, Madrid employed a possession-based, open style approach which was great for the neutral but it sometimes left them exposed at the back.

Last season in La Liga, Real lost only four times but three of them came at the Bernabeu and were against Cadiz, Alaves, and Levante - teams which they should be beating quite comfortably.

Had Real defeated just one of those three teams, they would have won the title ahead of rivals Atletico Madrid but this season, they have looked much more resolute when last year they could have been described as quite flaky.

Only 21 goals have been shipped in 27 top-flight games and that partly explains why they have an eight-point gap back to Sevilla before this weekend's fixtures.

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Getting the best out of the squad

Ancelotti's adaption of Real's playing style has yielded some great results from certain players.

They like to spring forward quicker on the counter-attack and, as such, the likes of Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have been able to shine out wide.

The former in particular has been a real shining light for the club this season, netting 16 goals and providing the perfect support to Karim Benzema up front.

Speaking of Benzema, the Frenchman continues to blossom into the later stages of his career as his sensational hat trick against PSG showed.

Benzema had spent years being in the shadow of Cristiano Ronaldo but is now the main man and is relishing the responsibility with Ancelotti giving him full license in the number nine role.

Squad management has also been a big help with Ancelotti resting and rotating players effectively - one of the reasons why 36-year-old Luka Modric was able to put on such a virtuoso display against PSG in the Champions League.

Madrid taking advantage of rivals slipping up

Ancelotti has shown no mercy when it comes to the plight of main rivals Barcelona and Atletico and that is why they are so far clear at the top of the table.

Barca's financial troubles have been well-documented in La Liga this season and having to cope without Lionel Messi for the first time since he made his senior breakthrough.

Atleti have dipped a long way short of their form from last season as well with Diego Simeone's side failing to bring that ruthless spiky edge that saw them break the Braca/Real duopoly in La Liga.

Real's results against those two sides have been good - they narrowly defeated La Blaugrana at the Nou Camp 2-1 while they comfortably brushed aside Atletico 2-0 at the Bernabeu.

Even if Real slip up, they are still likely to reclaim the title, and the decision to reappoint Ancelotti is looking a shrewd one.

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