Granada CF host Real Madrid as Zinedine Zidane looks to secure his first away win since taking over the reins from Rafael Benitez.
The Spanish giants have been in poor form away from home, securing only 16 points from 10 games (W4, D4, L2) this season. Granada on the other hand, are currently struggling in the relegation zone as they look to resurrect a flagging season under manager Jose Ramon Sandoval.
Both the managers come into the game with different expectations riding on their shoulders. While Zidane has succeded Benitez mid-season with the hope of rejuvenating an unenthusiastic Real Madrid side, Sandoval’s poor run with Granada has resulted in a sense of insecurity with regards to his position at the club.
Granada: Tasked with the impossible?
Real Madrid have scored a total of 17 goals since Zidane assumed command of the first team squad. However, 16 of those have come at Santiago Bernabeu as Madrid continue to falter away from home this season. Granada will be banking on the visitors having an off day in front of the goal as they look to keep the likes of Ronaldo and Benzema at bay.
Granada endured a busy winter transfer window as they signed eight new players in the last few weeks. In a bid to avoid relegation, Sandoval is likely to prioritise on restricting shooting opportunities to the likes of Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo. With Zidane allowing Real Madrid’s Marcelo and Carvajal to play higher up on the pitch, the manager will look to break with speed and menace in a bid to catch the Madrid defence off-guard.
Real Madrid cannot afford any more ducks
A man on a mission, Zidane will be hoping for an emphatic performance from his Real Madrid side as he looks to catch up with his old foe Luis Enrique in the race for the La Liga title. James Rodriguez is expected to replace Gareth Bale in the line-up and will be tasked with the responsibility to create opportunities for Ronaldo and Benzema in front of the goal.
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Real Madrid will look to play higher up on the pitch and shift an extra gear in terms of chasing the ball as they have since Zidane took control of the first team. Marcelo and Carvajal have both looked menacing in recent weeks and have added a new dimension to the attack under Zidane’s supervision.
Playing with an added intensity in the midfield, the Frenchman will be relying on Toni Kroos and Luka Modric to dictate the pace of the game.
Real Madrid- Strong favourites
Real Madrid are the strong favourites and will be disappointed to return without three points against Granada C.F. However, Sandoval’s men have been defensively stronger at home this season and will be looking to frustrate Real Madrid’s by closing down the gaps in their own half.
The fate of the match could hinge upon the possibility of an early goal from Real Madrid. Granada will ideally look to hold the fort in the first half and then take their chances as and when they get them in the second half of the game.
Andres Fernandez vs. Karim Benzema
Despite his off-field controversies, Karim Benzema is enjoying a fine spell at Real Madrid and is currently trailing Luis Suarez and Cristiano Ronaldo in the goal-scoring charts by a single goal. It will also be interesting to see if Sandoval hands Jesus Fernandez his debut on Sunday, in which case the former Levante goalkeeper would be severely tested by a resolute Real Madrid side.
Youssef El Arabi vs. Raphael Varane
Youssef El Arabi will be tasked with the responsibility to spearhead Granada’s attack against Real Madrid. Granada’s highest goal-scorer is likely to come up against Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos who will test him to the limit on Sunday.
Isaac Success vs. Carvajal
Dani Carvajal will come up against Isaac Success who could trouble the Real Madrid defence along with El Araby. The Spanish full-back will have to balance his offensive inclinations with his defensive responsibilities so as to not leave the Madrid defence vulnerable.
Strengths and Weaknesses
- Lethal attacking force: With 64 goals to their name this season, Real Madrid has scored the most number of goals in the Spanish la Liga this season.
- Poor away from: Amongst the obvious title contenders this season (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid), Los Blancos have earned the least number of points in away fixtures.
- Poor defensive record: Only Rayo Vallecano have conceded more goals than Granada in the Spanish la Liga this season.