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Karanka: Europe priority for Real

By Football News



Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka said the Champions League is the club's top priority as they take on Manchester United on Tuesday.

Karanka's side thumped Sevilla 4-1 on Saturday - powered by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick - and he still insisted they would play to win in La Liga despite the 13-point gap to league-leaders Barcelona.

"We have shown we still want to win every league game," Karanka told reporters after the match.

"However, the Champions League takes centre stage now."

The first leg of Real Madrid's last-16 tie will be at Old Trafford and defender Pepe allayed any fears of Ronaldo's substitution with 20 minutes to go, saying the Portuguese superstar's energy was being preserved for the marquee match-up.

"Ronaldo's fine. He works hard and has to play. He deserves it (the hat-trick)," Pepe said.

"The team works hard every day. Today, we went all out. Every game is special, but on Wednesday we will have to keep (our form) up."

The centre-back was deployed as an unorthodox central midfielder on the night in the wake of Gonzalo Higuain's sending off, and he confirmed his readiness to perform the role again in mid-week.

"I'm happy to be back, and do not think playing in midfield against Sevilla to be an experiment," he said.