Match Preview: Real Madrid v Granada
La Liga, Santiago Bernabeu
Real Madrid return to action following the international break by welcoming relegation-threatened Granada to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men cannot afford anything less than a victory after falling four points behind leaders Barcelona with a 2-1 Clasico defeat at the Camp Nou last time out.
Ancelotti will hope some starring performances from his men for their countries will help lift spirits following that Clasico set-back and in the Andalusians Madrid face a side sitting second-from-bottom in the table and with just two wins from 24 Liga matches.
Take nothing for granted in football but Madrid face a relatively comfortable return to league action in the Spanish capital this lunchtime.
Real Madrid team news
Ancelotti has confirmed James Rodriguez will play from the start after successfully recovering from a foot injury. The Colombian suffered his set-back in the 2-1 victory over Sevilla and since then Madrid won four, lost four and drew one of the nine matches he missed.
James should come in for Isco, who misses out due to an accumulation of yellow cards, in Madrid’s three-man midfield alongside Toni Kroos and Luka Modric.
Ancelotti also confirmed he would rest Dani Carvajal and Sami Khedira. The latter has confirmed he is leaving the club at the end of the season and will not expect to see much action, while Alvaro Arbeloa is set to come in for Carvajal ahead of a hectic April.
Madrid confirmed that Pepe would be sidelined through injury and Raphael Varane will replace him in the heart of the defence alongside Sergio Ramos. The Portugal international is expected to miss the next three matches.
Granada team news
Adrian Colunga is a definite absentee for the Andalusians, while Ruben Perez and Jeison Murillo are both doubts going into the game. Emanuel Insua is fot to start after recovering from an ankle injury.
Abel Resino’s men go into the game as massive underdogs but their form has at least improved in recent weeks, in taking four points from a possible nine to give their survival hopes a shot in the arm.
“We’re convinced that it’s all to play for in La Liga and that we have to try to win every match we can. The team are really up for it, and the fans are too. The team are in really good shape now, fresh and up for it. We come into this period in better phsical shape than last year, as practically the whole squad is available and only Pepe has a minor problem, which he’s going to get over quickly”.
“Our objective is to try to win every game. We’ve already done that before, between September and December, and it’s not a utopian idea. The team look fresh and ready to fight for every game”.
Abel Resino says…
“We should go all out from the start, with an open mentality. But one thing we shouldn’t be is afraid.”
“The Bernabéu is very demanding; the home fans really start to put pressure on their players if things aren’t going their way. I hope it’s one of those days when Madrid struggle to find their rhythm, and it would be even better if we can impose ourselves on the game early on.”
Casillas; Arbeloa, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, James; Bale, Benzema, Cristiano.
– Madrid trail Barcelona by four points going into the game but can narrow that gap and put the pressure on the Catalans somewhat with three points today. Barcelona visit Celta Vigo with a 9pm (CET) kick-off.
– Granada have won only one of their last six matches, drawing two and losing the other three. They sit 19th in the table, three points adrift of safety.
– Madrid thrashed Granada 4-0 in the first fixture between the sides this season. James Rodriguez scored twice while Ronaldo and Benzema also got on the scoresheet.
– Madrid have won ten of their last eleven matches in La Liga on home soil and welcome a side that has conceded at least two goals in their last matches on their travels.
v Rayo Vallecano (A) – April 8, 22:00