Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid
January 25, 2014; 15:00 GMT
MatchDay 20 in La Liga could not possibly have turned out any better for Real Madrid. A rout at lowly Real Betis, which saw Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema all score, as followed by draws for both Atletico Madrid and Barcelona, allowing Real Madrid to close the gap at top to just 1 point. Taking to the pitch early this weekend, Los Blancos have the opportunity to go top of the table and mount a title charge in a really long time. There is also the small matter of Ronaldo presenting the Ballon D’Or to the home crowd.
Granada aren’t doing so bad themselves and infact look poised for a much better finish than last season. It will, however, need nothing short of a herculean effort to walk away with anything from the Santiago Bernabéu, with Real Madrid in such fine form and a long list of incentives ahead of them.
Real Madrid – Team news, Lineup and Formation
Carlo Ancelotti wouldn’t be too interested in making many changes to the line-up from last week seeing as he did his team perform in such resplendent fashion. As such, the injuries to Varane, who has returned to training, and Sami Khedira would not be of great significance in immediate terms.
Real Madrid will be expected to line-up in the now familiar 4-3-3 formation, the transition from a 4-2-3-1 seemingly complete. The back-five is likely to feature two changes, with Carvajal replacing Arbeloa at right back and Coentrao getting the nod ahead of otherwise excellent Marcelo. Ramos and Pepe will continue their partnership in the heart of Real Madrid defence, while Diego Lopez will stand guard between the posts.
Isco looks destined to be on the bench for now, as the fine form of Modric, Alonso and Di Maria continues. The trio will feature in the midfield with Di Maria making the occasional forays up ahead and occasionally switching the formation to a 4-2-3-1. In the attacking third, Cristiano Ronaldo, Benzema and Bale would be the obvious candidates to start.
Expected Line-ups (4-3-3): Lopez (GK); Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao; Modric, Alonso, Di Maria; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo
Granada – Team news, Lineup and Formation
Granada are currently 10th in La Liga standings and have done well so far to keep themselves from the relegation battle. They have also picked up 4 points from last two games, but face a mammoth challenge at the Bernabéu with a long list of injuries adding to manager Lucas Alcaraz’ difficulties. Fran Rico, one of Granada’s better performers this season, is out suspended too.
Like their counterparts, the Andalusians too would be expected to line up in a 4-3-3 formation, successfully employed for the last two weeks. As gigantic as an away trip to the Bernabéu might appear, Granada have enjoyed the best away record in the league after the top three and Alcaraz would hope his side show the same resolve against Real Madrid. Granada’s major threat would come from the left side and if they are able to nick an early goal, they might just grind out a result as they have done so many times on their travels.
Expected Line-ups (4-3-3): Roberto (GK); Nyom, Murillo, Mainz, Angulo; Recio, Iturra, Brahimi; Pereira, El-Arabi, Piti
- Cristiano Ronaldo is the 5th Real Madrid player to win a Ballon D’Or
- Real Madrid are have conceded a sum total of 0 goals in La Liga in 2014
- Real Madrid have won 19 of their last 20 home matches in La Liga
- Real Madrid have kept a clean sheet in 5 of their last 7 matches in La Liga, and haven’t conceded a goal in last six games in all competitions
Player to watch out for
Cristiano Ronaldo will take to the Bernabeu pitch for the first time after winning the Ballon D’Or and will be the center of attention in the way he has been on countless occasions before. Never the one to shy away when under maximum scrutiny, expect another noteworthy performance from the Portuguese.
Real Madrid 3-0 Granada
With their run of form, it is hard to imagine any result but a victory for Real Madrid. The game gives Los Blancos a rare opportunity to go top of the table, as surprising as it sounds, but Ancelotti’s side will look to grab it with both hands and put pressure on trend -setters Barcelona and Atletico Madrid.