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    Ancelotti highlights Kroos influence as Real Madrid book Champions League last-16 spot

    Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for midfielder Toni Kroos after his influential display in Real Madrid’s 3-0 Champions League win over Sheriff on Wednesday.

    Kroos doubled Los Blancos’ advantage before the interval after David Alaba had opened the scoring, while Karim Benzema added a third in the second half.

    The routine win helped the LaLiga giants progress to the last 16 of the competition for the 19th season a row – the only team to do so since the round was introduced in the 2003-04 season.

    Kroos has now been involved in four goals in his last three games in all competitions for Madrid (two goals, two assists) – as many as he had in his previous 13 games – and Ancelotti was delighted with his contribution.

    “If Kroos is well the coach is calmer,” the Italian told a media conference. “He handles the ball like nobody else. 

    “That combination with Casemiro and Modric is spectacular. He is also scoring goals and he is doing very well.”

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    The match was played on the same day Benzema was handed a one-year suspended prison sentence and fined €75,000 after being found guilty of complicity in the attempted blackmail of Mathieu Valbuena.

    The France striker was one of five people standing trial over the attempt to extort former international team-mate Valbuena in a case dating back to June 2015.

    It did not seem to distract the 33-year-old, who was in typically clinical form, with Ancelotti insistent the forward is focused only on what happens on the pitch.

    “It is calm, it has been a topic for a long time,” he added. “He is focused on Madrid and I see that he is well.”

    Alaba’s deflected free-kick ended a run of 50 Champions League games without a goal for the Austrian since he scored for Bayern Munich against Arsenal in November 2015.

    He was replaced in the 64th minute by Nacho after suffering an injury, yet Ancelotti is hopeful he will be fit for Sunday’s LaLiga clash with Sevilla.

    “It’s a little knee sprain,” he said. “It doesn’t seem worrisome because he doesn’t have much pain. We hope he plays on Sunday.”

    Madrid need just a point against Inter in a fortnight to ensure they progress to the knockout stages as Group D winners.

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