Zinedine Zidane and his men will be hosted by Granada CF at Los Cármenes, as they look to keep the pressure on arch rivals Barcelona at the summit of the La Liga.
The last time these sides faced each other, Zidane’s men ran riot at the Santiago Bernabeu. It was an easy 5-0 drubbing of Granada, prior to which Cristiano Ronaldo showed off his fourth Ballon d’Or trophy to the Real Madrid faithful, showing his appreciation for their support.
That victory was Real’s 39th consecutive match unbeaten and they equalled Barcelona’s Spanish record. They would go only one more match unbeaten before eventually succumbing to Jorge Sampaoli’s Sevilla the following week at the second time of asking.
Since then, Zidane’s men have tasted defeat only 4 times and are are currently 2 points behind Barcelona with a game in hand, and they have one foot set in the finals of the Champions League in Cardiff, having just beaten Atletico Madrid 3-0 in the final.
Since being handed that 5-0 thrashing, things haven’t gotten any better for the Andalusians. They would only go on to win 3 more games after that and suffer 13 defeats over the course of time.
In the midst of all that, manager Lucas Alcaraz was shown the door and replaced with Arsenal legend Tony Adams, but even he couldn’t stop the rot and they eventually got relegated. They will now have to spend the 2017/18 season in the second division.
Tony Adams’ men will have nothing to play for other than to salvage whatever little pride is left. they currently sit at 19th place, one point ahead of Osasuna and only thing possibly worse than finishing 19th would likely be finishing 20th.
Matthieu Saunier, Artem Kravets and Héctor Hérnandez didn’t train with the squad yesterday and are likely to miss out tonight. Saunier will miss out due to a hamstring injury, Kravets due to a sprain on the ankle and Hernandez due to a hyper extension in his right knee.
As a result, Adrian Ramos will likely start upfront with Andreas Pereira in behind him. On loan Chelsea youngster Jeremie Boga may also be handed a start on the left wing to try and further his development, in place of Aly Malle who started last week.
Isaac Cuenca will likely be deployed on the right wing and in the holding midfield roles, Victorien Angban and Uche Agbo should retain their places in the squad. Gaston Silva will likely start at left back and Martin Hongla should partner Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the middle of the park.
Predicted Starting XI(4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Silva, Hongla, Ingason, Foulquier; Agbo, Angban; Boga, Pereira, Cuenca; Ramos
Zinedine Zidane will have his fair share of injuries to deal with, but they shouldn’t concern him too much for this match. Gareth Bale, Dani Carvajal, Raphael Varane and Pepe have all been sidelined due to injury and will likely sit this one out.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Isco are on the brink of suspension and 1 more yellow card for either of them would result in them missing out the crucial next match against Sevilla. It seems unlikely that Zidane would choose to risk such losses and might be rested for this tie.
Benzema, Modric and Casemiro could also be expected to start this match on the bench in a bid to rest them for the second leg of the Champions League semi-final next week. Kiko Casilla could start ahead of Keylor Navas, but Zidane will be wary of the need to maintain a balance in the squad.
As a result, we will likely see rare starts for Fabio Coentrao, Nacho Fernandez and Danilo in defence. Mateo Kovacic could start alongside either Modric or Kroos in midfield with James Rodriguez also likely to get a look in.
Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez, both youngsters who have impressed thoroughly this season will also likely start ahead of Bale and Ronaldo and Benzema can be expected to take a breather in order for Alvaro Morata to get a rare start in the league.
No change need be expected from the usual 4-3-3 formation for this tie. Zidane has often dabbled with the idea of a 4-4-2 in the middle of games by trying to shake things up and provide a little more balance across his midfield, but he most likely wont start with 4 in midfield.
Predicted Starting XI (4-3-3): Navas; Coentrao, Ramos, Fernandez, Danilo; Kroos, Kovacic, Rodriguez; Asensio, Morata, Vazquez
- The last time Granada beat Real Madrid in La Liga was in February 2013, due to a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal.
- Granada’s last victory in La Liga was 2 months ago, in March against Deportivo Alaves.
- Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 12 goals in his last 11 La Liga games against Granada, but only 2 of those have come at Los Cármenes.
- Tony Adams is the first Granada CF manager to lose his first 4 La Liga games in the club’s history.
- Granada CF goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa has made 152 saves in the La Liga this term, more than any other keeper in Europe’s top 5 Leagues.
- Real Madrid fullback Marcelo has made 9 assists in the La Liga this term, more than any other defender in Europe’s top 5 Leagues.
Granada CF 0-3 Real Madrid
Though Real Madrid will likely field a second string side for this tie and try and rest as many key players as possible, Los Blancos are still more than capable of running riot against a relegated and depleted Granada with the quality they have in their squad.
The likes of James Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata are more than capable of ensuring that they leave Los Cármenes with all three points, but they shouldn’t take Tony Adams’ side lightly. Granada have nothing to lose and hence, will be far more dangerous than before.
They will be desperate to give their fans something to cheer about and Real Madrid’s scalp, or at the very least a point would certainly help raise confidence in the dressing room and amongst their down trodden fans.
With a difference of only 4 points between Real and Barca, the European Champions cannot afford to slip up even a little between now and the end of the season and they certainly cannot afford to get complacent at this stage of the campaign.