- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

MADRID (AP) - Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti expects Cristiano Ronaldo to be available for the Copa del Rey semifinal on Wednesday despite the threat of a four-game ban.

Ronaldo was shown a straight red card in Sunday’s 1-1 Spanish league draw at Athletic Bilbao, leaving his availability for the semifinal against Atletico Madrid up in the air.

The Portugal forward made a mocking gesture as he left the field, which could result in a longer suspension with any ban of at least four games extending to all competitions. A decision is expected by Wednesday.

“I don’t think we’ll have to wait for the committee’s decision because I’m sure his ban won’t be serious. Cristiano will start the game tomorrow,” Ancelotti said on Tuesday.

There is a precedent of adding two games to any initial ban for using the gesture, which mocks a slap to the cheek to suggest the referee has a lot of nerve.

“I don’t think it was such bad gesture,” Ancelotti said. “The player was unhappy because the red was an exaggeration after he received the provocation he receives in every game. He’s provoked and fouled so much in every match.”

The Italian coach says forward Gareth Bale will be available after being left out of the squad against Bilbao.

“Bale has played very well when he has been available this season, but he’s also had problems,” Ancelotti said. “He’ll be much better next season since he’ll have a full preseason and have adapted to Spanish football.”

Ancelotti praised counterpart Diego Simeone’s work in leading Atletico to the top of the Spanish league standings for the first time since 1996.

“Simeone doesn’t believe his team can win the league. He’s doing this to keep the pressure off,” Ancelotti said. “Atletico is solid, they are very well organized and play well on the counter. Everything is working out for them.”

Atletico beat Madrid in the domestic cup final last season for its first city derby victory since 1999. Atletico is on a two-game winning streak against its crosstown rival, with both victories coming at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium where Wednesday’s first leg will be played.

Atletico expects to have Turkey midfielder Arda Turan back from injury.

Barcelona plays Real Sociedad in the other semifinal.


Follow Paul Logothetis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PaulLogoAP



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