BARCELONA (Reuters) - Long-distance friendlies for world champions Spain are putting an unnecessary strain on players, according to Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Real are away at Almeria on Saturday having welcomed back several players who featured in the surprise 1-0 defeat in South Africa this week, including Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa and Sergio Ramos.
Spain played Equatorial Guinea a few days before that and Ancelotti has criticised the Spanish football federation for the decision to schedule games that involve long-haul flights.
"We are lucky that there are no more international games until March," Ancelotti told a Real Madrid news conference.
"It's difficult to talk about this but I don't think that the decision by Spain to have these matches was a good one.
"The players slept three nights on a plane and that is not good. Barcelona had the injury to (Victor) Valdes and we didn't have one but still better organisation can help to avoid these injuries," he added.
Ancelotti is without several players for the trip to Almeria, including Angel Di Maria, Marcelo, Raphael Varane and Fabio Coentrao, but his main priority is deciding who will replace injured Germany international Sami Khedira.
It could mean Asier Illarramendi or Carlos Casemiro playing alongside Xabi Alonso in the centre as third-placed Real hope to make up ground on leaders Barcelona, who are six-points clear.
"We have tried to maintain the same system in the last few games with three attacking midfielders and two sitting behind them. We could play Casemiro or Illarra along with Alonso and have Isco (Alarcon) ahead of them," Ancelotti said.
"This is the decision I have to take as I have confidence in all the players. The physical state of the team though is not good as we have so many players out."
"The mentality of the players is positive though and they are all concentrated on the game tomorrow and the main concern is to get back the players who are injured.
"We have done well in the recent games and shown a good attitude but we know that matches after a break are not easy and Almeria are playing well also."