March 12, 1900 hours ( GMT )
Tiki-taka of their own
Before the match at Racing Santander, the air around Bernabeu was heavy with trepidation. Real’s “main” player, Cristiano Ronaldo, was out injured and Racing were on a six-match unbeaten spree. Ridiculous, one might say considering the riches at the disposal of Real. The night against Malaga was quickly forgotten by the sumptuous display of one touch football displayed by Real against Racing.
Arguably producing their best football of the season in the first half, Real Madrid looked completely in control. It also featured a certain Granero, who got only his second start of his season. When one talks about grabbing chances with both hands, Granero exemplified that in the match against Racing. He acted as a perfect foil to Xabi Alonso, who orchestrated the game with complete ease. Such mature was his display that both, Mourinho and Alonso, heaped praise on him, with Mourinho saying it “pained him” to leave him out in the stands.
The performance only reinforced the twin beliefs of the Madridistas – one being that Real are as good, if not a better team, without Ronaldo and second being that Granero can cut it at the top level, if given the right amount of chances.
Real Madrid will now be facing the only team that has left the Nou Camp with all 3 points this season in La Liga: Hercules. Despite the obvious gulf in quality, Real need to be wary of the threat posed by the modest side. Matches like these are the ones that decide the fate of the title and Real would do well to remember that.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Mourinho seems to be really motivating his players and knows how to connect with them, as Xabi Alonso had mentioned. However, this is one outcome even he might not have foreseen. Adebayor stated his to desire to do everything to prolong his stay at Real and he came up with a truly unique idea, i.e., to cut his dreadlocks. He was quoted saying, “I do not see success at Madrid with dreadlocks”.
Both Carvalho and CR7 have been saved for the crucial encounter against Lyon. Kaka is out injured once more and will take at least fifteen days to recover. Khedira has started training and might feature in the game at some point. Lass is back from suspension and might feature ahead of Granero, despite the latter giving a virtuoso performance in the last match. Also Gago and Pedro Leon remain sidelined. Garay has been called up, although it is unlikely that he will feature.
Mourinho will have Lass back and since his penchant for hard men is well known and keeping in mind the UCL fixture, both Khedira and Lass should be playing in this match at some point or the other. Albiol will deputise for Carvalho, while Morata might also get some minutes if the scoreline is favorable enough.
Benzema was a revelation in the last match playing slightly as an outside striker on the left side and Adebayor acting as spearhead. In the light of current injuries and reluctance to demoralize either of his in-form strikers, expect Mourinho to persist with the previous line-up with only minor changes in personnel.
Probable Starting line up: Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Albiol, Marcelo; Alonso, Lass; Oezil; Di Maria, Adebayor, Benzema
Hercules have started to slip up and their cause is not helped by injuries to their key personnel. Trezeguet, Drenthe, Tote and Pena are all out injured. One welcome news is that their Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez is back from injury and might be able to spearhead the attack.
Also, there is a small little matter of a former Real Madrid ‘cantanero’ Javier Portillo returning to Bernabeu; a place where he was supposed to shine but failed to do so.
Picking up 8 points out of a possible 36 is a surefire recipe to get relegated and Hercules are doing just that. Hercules have won only once the whole season and amazingly, it was a victory at the Nou Camp. They will now be facing a Real Madrid side who are yet to drop points at their home this season and have won twenty-three on the trot in front of their fans.
They will surely be playing with a two-man holding midfield with the midfielders tracking back to assist their defenders and forcing Madrid out wide. The idea would be to congest the midfield and shut out Benzema and Ozil, while at the same time make Madrid put crosses in the box rather than play through the middle. They hope to make use of the physical strength of their defenders to keep these crosses out.
Probable Starting line up: 4-4-1-1 Calatayud, Abraham Paz, Pamarot, Cortes, Juanra, Abel Aguilar Tapias, Fritzler, Tiago Gomes, Farinos, Kiko Femenia, Portillo
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
Emmanuel Adebayor (Real Madrid)
Adebayor showed, albeit in a weird way, his dedication by cutting his hair and this match should be an ideal platform to show the efficacy of his new hairstyle. This time Real Madrid will need his aerial ability and holding capabilities in abundance, if they are to get something out of this match. Even if he does not score goals , it will be his movement off the ball and capability to bring others into play that will decide the result of the match.
David Cortes (Hercules)
The veteran Getafe defender will need to be on full alert and will need to marshal his defence to ensure that goals are not leaked. His experience will be required to help his side to get something out of a very difficult fixture.
Real Madrid 2-0 Hercules
A hard fought battle is on the cards, with a nice physical tussle in the middle. Plenty of crosses, missed chances and a few cannonballs off Hercules’ woodwork seems to be on the cards. A hard fought win and clean sheet after a long time could be the flavour of the day.