Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says key midfielder Toni Kroos will start Saturday's La Liga trip to Malaga despite complaining of tiredness this week.
Kroos has had a superb last 12 months -- securing the Bundesliga title and German Cup with Bayern, then winning the World Cup with his national side, and immediately becoming a key player for Madrid after joining for a bargain 20 million euros last summer.
Such success has however brought a heavy workload including 25 league and cup fixtures for Bayern in the second half of last season, and then playing all seven matches at the summer's World Cup.
So far in 2013-14 Kroos has played 21 Madrid games in all competitions, starting 20 of these. He has also played six internationals for his country -- including Euro 2016 qualifiers and high-profile friendlies against Argentina and Spain.
The 24-year-old told German reporters in the mixed zone after Wednesday's 1-0 Champions League group win at Basel that he had never before in his career played so many games.
"I cannot yet see the summer," he apparently joked. "This year I played all the second half of the season [with Bayern], then I played all the World Cup, then played the European Super Cup and Spanish Supercopa with Real Madrid, and now I am not missing any games. I have never played more games in my life. I am starting to get tired. And on top of that, in Spain there is no break in January, as there is in Germany. So you must keep going. I suppose I will get a rest at some point."
This has led to Blancos fans and pundits wondering why squad players such as 38 million-euro midfielder Asier Illarramendi and on-loan Manchester United forward Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez are not used more often, but Ancelotti told his prematch news conference that Kroos was needed to play in this week's potentially tricky fixture.
"Tomorrow [Kroos] will play," he said. "We need him. We will see about next week. We also have Illarramendi, who is coming back from injury although he played very well against Basel."
Ancelotti denied his high-flying team was growing tired, as midfielders and attackers also including Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Isco and James Rodriguez have regularly played twice a week through recent months.
"I do not see the team as tired," he said. "It is a team who has recovered very well. We need to rotate when the players are tired. I just see Kroos a little tired, and we will use the Copa del Rey week to give him a rest. Isco is happy to be coming back to Malaga. Bale is fine and wants to help the team."
Kroos' international colleague Sami Khedira will not be available to step in, as he continues to be troubled by a hip problem. Ancelotti -- who has denied that Khedira's absences through recent months have had anything to do with his contractual situation -- said again that he hoped the 27-year-old would sign a new deal and not leave for free next summer.
"Khedira is not ready yet," he said. "He needs some more days work. He will be back next week. [His new contract] is something the club proposed, but then there is a negotiation. Speaking technically I can say that we need him."
Madrid travel south knowing a win will set a club record of 16 consecutive victories in all competitions, passing the mark set previously by teams coached by Miguel Munoz (in 1960-61) and Jose Mourinho (2011-12).
"We are not talking about that," he said. "Just about preparing for a difficult game, where we have to play well to stay on top of the table. Our objective is to beat Malaga."
Malaga had been in excellent form recently, winning five consecutive La Liga games, before losing 3-1 at champions Atletico Madrid last weekend. Javi Gracia's side also halted an in-form Barcelona at La Rosaleda earlier this season -- drawing 0-0 to end the Blaugrana outfit's 100 percent start to the campaign.
"Tomorrow's game will be difficult, because Malaga are having a very good season," he said. "Until the Calderon they had won five games a row. This is a game which needs attention."
Ancelotti would not say too much when asked about Mallorca attacking starlet Marco Asensio, who is widely reported to be close to agreeing a transfer to the Bernabeu club.
"I do not know anything about this matter," he said. "I have seen [Asensio] play, and he is a young talent who I believe we will have a big future."