Estadio Nuevo Los Carmenes, Granada
August 26, 2013; 20:00 GMT
Raul’s heartening return to the Santiago Bernabéu for his tribute fixture was the biggest talking point among the Real Madrid faithful this week. The club’s greatest ever goal-scorer was back among familiar surroundings, putting on the same old #7 and captain’s armband that he wore with such pride during sixteen eventful years. His opener in the 23rd minute sent the packed crowds in delirious ruptures, much like the ones that followed when he netted his first goal for Real Madrid back in 1994. At the end of the match Raul made an emotional lap of honour, acknowledging the 80,000 fans who sang his name. And although this might just have been his last appearance in the famous all-white, this was a fitting farewell for Real Madrid’s beloved El Capitan.
Carlo Ancelotti would have been hoping that this emotional occasion would galvanize the squad and the crowds for the season ahead. Real Madrid’s opponents for the weekend, Granada would have been hoping that they had someone like Raul.
Team News, Tactics & Lineups
Granada largely managed to scrape through last season, finishing 15th in the league table. In February, however, they claimed the biggest of scalps by defeating Real Madrid 1-0 in the reverse fixture of Monday night’s game. These three points were eventually crucial in Granada avoiding the drop. Manager Lucas Alcaraz will be hoping they come up with something similar again.
Having no fresh injury concerns, the Andalusians and can count on a full squad being available for selection. Los Filipinos won 2-1 away at Osasuna on the opening day and manager Alcaraz will go for the winning line-up and formation, a 4-2-3-1. Roberto Alvarellos will start in goal, assisted by a back four of Allan Nyom, Pape Diakhate, Jeison Murillo and Brayan Angulo.
Hassan Yebda and Manuel Iturra will form the midfield pivot, assisting the attacking trio of Yacine Brahimi, Dani Benitez and Francisco Piti Luna. Piti had six successful seasons with Rayo Vallecano, Real Madrid’s local rivals, before moving to Granada this summer and he will be leading charge as the second striker. Youssef el-Arabi, who opened Granada’s scoring against Osasuna, will lead the line. Granada’s best bet would be utilizing a greater physical prowess and aggression compared to Real Madrid but will have to be careful of conceding too much possession to their opponents.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Alvarellos(GK); Nyom, Diakhate, Murillo, Angulo; Iturra, Yebda; Brahimi, Piti, Benitez; El-Arabi
The news on the injury front is similar to that of last week. In an official statement, the club website stated that midfielder Xabi Alonso had successfully undergone a foot surgery although he could remain sidelined for an extended period. The Spanish international had sustained a fractured metatarsal during Wednesday morning’s training session. Raphael Varane remains sidelined too, but Alonso’s heir apparent Asier Illarramendi might get a look in as a substitute this time around. The situation of his match fitness, however, is not completely clear.
Last Sunday’s line-up gave some insight into Ancelotti’s preferred formations and tactics; the Italian played a 4-1-4-1 in the first half which did not bear much fruit and eventually he had to shuffle back to a 4-2-3-1 which ultimately proved decisive for Real Madrid. It seems therefore that Ancelotti will deploy the latter from the beginning this time. The performance also showed the areas wherein Real Madrid will need improvement. The defence was repeatedly caught napping as Betis’ wingers ran rings around Madrid’s back-four and they will have to pull up their socks for another tricky contest; the reverse fixture last time had resulted in a 1-0 defeat for Los Blancos.
Team selection-wise, there are not likely to be many changes. Alvaro Arbeloa will replace Dani Carvajal at right back to make his first start of the season. Carvajal was given a torrid time by Betis’s Cedric, arguably their best player on the night.As a result, Arbeloa alongside Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Marcelo will start in defence ahead of Diego Lopez, who got a rather surprise nod ahead of Iker Casillas last time but will keep his position for the current fixture. However, it must be noted that predicting who starts over whom is already getting trickier.
Casemiro again showed glimpses of his brilliance when he replaced Khedira in the last game which might get him the starting berth alongside the German in the midfield double pivot, whileModric will move to the bench. Ozil and Isco will swap their starting positions in the attacking third from the last fixture; the German through the middle and Isco on the right. The Spaniard was brilliant on his debut for Real Madrid and was equally adept through the middle and right. Cristiano Ronaldo did not have his best game last week but one can expect him to come back strongly. He will start on the left.
Benzema, who has been linked with a surprise move to Arsenal, will again lead the line but he will have to improve from his last game.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1): Lopez(GK); Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Khedira, Casemiro; Isco, Ozil, Ronaldo; Benzema
- Raul, who bid farewell to Real Madrid on an emotional testimonial night, is the club’s all-time top goal-scorer with 323 goals ahead of the likes of Alfredo Di Stefano and also the most capped player with 741 appearances, ahead of legends such as Manuel Sanchis.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has only ever scored a single own goal in his career and it happened against Granada away last season.
- This is only the third season in the top flight for Granada, having spent 35 years in the lower divisions.
- Real Madrid are inching ever closer to a record breaking deal for Gareth Bale, which could be announced as early as Sunday.
- Granada are unbeaten in their last four home games
Player to watch out for
Isco (Real Madrid)
Great expectations will rest on Isco once again as he attempts to recreate the heroics of his debut game for Real Madrid. The Spaniard was instrumental in Ancelotti’s first victory with Los Blancos by assisting Benzema’s equalizer and heading in the 86th minute winner.
Granada 1-2 Real Madrid
This will be by no means a walk in the park for Los Blancos. Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid is not a gelled-in outfit yet and Granada were been tricky opponents last season, both home and away. A scrappy game is in the offing, but the visitors will just about get the three vital points.