The top two teams of the 2019-20 La Liga will lock horns against each other on Saturday as leaders Real Madrid welcome second-placed Granada to the Bernabeu.
After two games without a win across all competitions, Real Madrid will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they play hosts to Granada on matchday 8 of the 2019-20 La Liga on Saturday afternoon.
Real Madrid occupy the top spot in the La Liga with 15 points from 7 matches. However, they are winless in their last two matches in all competitions. Zinedine Zidane’s men were held to a goalless draw by Atletico Madrid in the league last weekend, after which they played out a 2-2 draw against Club Brugge in the UEFA Champions League earlier this week.
Granada have been the surprise package of the new La Liga season. Diego Martinez’s men are currently second in the league standings, just a point shy of the Merengues and are unbeaten in their last five matches (W4 D1), which included a 2-0 win over reigning champions Barcelona last month. Their most recent fixture ended in a 1-0 win against Leganes.
Real Madrid have been quite inconsistent this season and Granada will back themselves to pick up another upset win and knock Los Blancos off their perch, having already gotten the better of Barcelona. Ahead of this clash between the top two at the Santiago Bernabeu, we take a closer look at both the teams;
Team News & Tactics
Real Madrid’s injury issues have compounded since last weekend as Nacho and Marcelo have joined Ferland Mendy on the treatment table, leaving Zidane out of options at left-back. Thibaut Courtois came off at half-time against Club Brugge with an illness and is unlikely to be involved on Saturday, while Marco Asenso remains sidelined.
Alphonse Areola, who impressed after coming on as a substitute against Club Brugge, is expected to start between the sticks for Los Blancos. The centre-back duo of Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos should remain intact, but will need to improve after a disappointing display in the midweek.
It will be interesting to see who Zidane opts to use as his left-back on Saturday. Castilla’s Fran Garcia is an option while Dani Carvajal has played in that position before and summer signing Eder Militao is also an alternative. The manager is likely to start with Carvajal on the left side of his backline, with Eder as the right-back, ahead of Alvaro Odriozola.
Casemiro has been one of Real Madrid’s most consistent performers and is a guaranteed starter at the base of the midfield. Toni Kroos is another player who has impressed recently and should be retained as well. Federico Valverde is likely to start ahead of James Rodriguez and Luka Modric, who struggled in the last game, as Zidane might look for more solidity in the middle.
Gareth Bale wasn’t involved in the Champions League clash, but should return to the side on the right flank replacing Lucas Vazquez. Eden Hazard has looked well below his best in the last two matches but is expected to be given another chance to come good, while Karim Benzema should spearhead the Real Madrid attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Areola; Militao, Varane, Ramos, Carvajal; Valverde, Casemiro, Kroos; Bale, Benzema, Hazard
Granada also have their fair share of injury problems heading into the big game at the Bernabeu. Defenders Alex Martinez, Neyder Lozano and Quini are all ruled out along with midfielders Yan Brice Eteki and Fede Vico. Star man Roberto Soldado and goalkeeper Rui Silva are also recovering from slight injury issues, but have been included in the 19-man squad by the manager.
— Granada C.F. (@GranadaCdeF) October 4, 2019
Diego Martinez is unlikely to make any changes to the team that defeated Leganes last weekend. Silva should be able to shake off his minor injury problem to continue between the sticks, while the back four of Victor Diaz, German Sanchez, Domingos Duarte and Carlos Neva should remain intact after keeping four clean sheets in the last five matches.
On-loan Manchester City midfielder Yangel Herrera has made a blazing start to the season and should continue in the double pivot in the middle of the park on Saturday. Partnering him against the league leaders should be the experienced Angel Montoro. Nigerian midfielder Ramon Azeez is expected to start in the No.10 role for the Andalusian outfit.
Antonio Puertas, who scored the only goal of the game against Leganes should start on the right flank, while Darwin Machis is a guaranteed starter on the left flank. Should Soldado be passed fit, the seasoned campaigner should lead the attack for Granada. The manager can call upon Adrian Ramos or Carlos Fernandez in case the former Spanish international isn’t fit enough to start.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Silva; Diaz, Sanchez, Duarte, Neva; Herrera, Montoro; Puertas, Azeez, Machis; Soldado
- Real Madrid have only suffered one defeat in their last 23 La Liga home matches against Granada (W20 D2), a 0-1 loss way back in 1974.
- Granada have collected 14 points after seven games in La Liga this season (W4 D2 L1) – their best ever total at this stage in a top-flight campaign.
- Real Madrid have scored 12 goals after seven games in La Liga this term, their lowest tally at this stage since 2006-07 (10), equalling last season (also 12).
- Granada have lost 14 of their last 15 La Liga games against Real Madrid. Their only win in that run came in February 2013 courtesy of a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal.
- Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema has been directly involved in 11 goals in his last eight LaLiga matches against Granada (eight goals and three assists).
Player to Watch
Having made the switch from Paris Saint-German to Real Madrid on the transfer deadline day, the French international has done fairly well in the limited opportunities that have come his way so far at his new club.
Areola kept a clean sheet in his debut game for Los Blancos against Osasuna last month. And having come on as a substitute in the previous game against Club Brugge, the 26-year-old impressed again. The France international looked much more reliable than Thibaut Courtois between the sticks and his distribution from the back was also much more assured.
With Courtois recovering from an illness, the Belgian is expected to drop out on Saturday, providing Areola with another chance to shine. If the PSG loanee does well against Granada, he could very well make the No.1 spot his own for the coming games.
Real Madrid 1-2 Granada
Real Madrid have failed to pick up wins in their last two matches and after a recent run of solid defensive displays, their backline crumbled against Club Brugge in the midweek. With no recognized left-back at his disposal, manager Zidane will be forced to field a makeshift option, which is likely to render the defence even more vulnerable.
Granada, on the other hand, have made a brilliant start to the campaign and have won four of their last five matches in the league, conceding just once in that run. They are the third-most prolific team in La Liga this season, only behind Villarreal and Barcelona and have the ability to hurt the Real Madrid defence.
The midweek game will have taken a lot out of Real Madrid and fatigue could play a factor. Granada will be well-rested and high on confidence given the high-flying form that they are in, which should give them an edge. And factoring in the problems at the back for the hosts, we at The Hard Tackle are predicting a first home defeat of the season for Los Blancos.