Los Cármenes, Granada
February 2, 2013; 21:00 GMT
After a pulsating draw in the Copa Del Rey against FC Barcelona, Real Madrid turn their sights to Granada. The last time these two sides met in the first half of the season, Real Madrid had endured a horrible start to the campaign but had won the Spanish Super Cup beating Barcelona. It is a strange co-incidence that once again Real Madrid have endured a forgettable set of games and are coming of a hugely impressive draw against the Catalans before facing Granada again.
Jose Mourinho will be happy with his team’s performance in the mesmerizing Copa Del Rey clash and will hope to finally arrest the slide before Manchester United come calling in the Champions’ League. Raphael Varane and Diego Lopez, both Clasico debutants could not have had better games, lifting up the morale of the supporters and the club considering the injuries to Iker Casillas and Pepe.
Granada, on the other hand, have appointed Lucas Alcaraz after sacking Juan Antonio Anquela on Wednesday. The club lies 17th in the table and were struggling in games to get results. Anquela, after the sacking, surprisingly seemed happy with his sacking. “I lost a job, but at least I got a life back… I’m sorry I wasn’t able to enjoy this team, this level and above all, this city. Football didn’t want me to be happy. It was the chance I was waiting for all my life.” Surely a nomination for quote of the year.
Team News & Tactics
With Granada making some interesting signings in January, and with a new coach at the helm, it remains to be seen how Granada will approach this game. Real Madrid will be high on confidence after their draw against Barcelona and will come attacking all out to try and reduce their 15 point gap between the table topper and themselves.
Granada have signed three strikers in Carlos Aranda, Nolito and Diego Buonanotte from Real Zaragoza, Benfica and Malaga respectively. But it remains to be seen if all three or atleast one of them will be drafted into the starting XI against Real Madrid.
Winger Dani Benitez is unavailable because a hamstring injury while defender Pape Diakhate is suspended. Nyom, Lopez, Mainz and Siqueira will start as the back-four with Roberto in goal.
The coach can play a 4-3-1-2 with Carlos Aranda and Ighalo as the two strikers and Diego Buonanotte playing behind them. Brahimi and Iriney will play a bit deeper alongside El-Arabi shielding the defense.
Probable Staring Line-up (4-3-1-2): Roberto; Nyom, Lopez, Mainz, Siqueira; Iriney, Brahimi, El-Arabi; Buonanotte; Aranda, Ighalo
Jose Mourinho will be mighty pleased with the return of Coentrao, Di Maria and Sergio Ramos after their suspensions. Also, Raphael Varane’s incredible performance mid-week is sure to fetch him a place in the central defense ahead of Carvalho and Albiol. Arbeloa, Ramos and Coentrao will line-up alongside the French international in defense.
Diogo Lopez was another player who was impressive against Barcelona and Mourinho will try to give him as many games as he can before the crucial clash against Manchester United in the Champions League.
Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso will start ahead of the defense. Ronaldo,Di Maria and Modric will complete the midfield while Gonzalo Higuain will start at the top. Mesut Ozil is suspended for this clash.
Real Madrid, high on confidence will definitely go all out and as might well try tactics which will be used against Manchester United in the midst of the match.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Diego Lopez; Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Coentrao; Alonso, Khedira;Di Maria, Modric, Ronaldo; Higuain
Player to Watch Out For
Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
The19-year-old was the toast of football lovers after his exquiste display in the Copa Del Rey encounter and drew comparisons to legends like Maldini, Baresi and Hierro. He hardly misplaced a pass and kept Lionel Messi quiet the entire evening, as his more illustrious counterpart,Ricardo Carvalho, failed to make any impact. It remains to be seen if the Frenchman can maintain the high standards he set in this encounter too.
Granada 1 – 3 Real Madrid
Anything other than a victory for Real Madrid will be an upset. Granada are under a new coach while Real Madrid seem to have stuck the right cord.
Blast from the Past