Real Madrid: How Will They Line Up in La Liga vs. Granada?

Samuel MarsdenFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2014

Real Madrid's Angel Di Maria, from Argentina, center, duels for the ball against Espanyol's Abraham Gonzalez, left, and Victor Sanchez during a Copa del Rey soccer match at Cornella-El Prat stadium in Cornella Llobregat , Spain, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Things could not have gone much better for Real Madrid so far in 2014.

On Wednesday night, they beat Espanyol 1-0 to ensure they take a lead into the second leg of their Copa del Rey tie at the Bernabeu next week. It was their third win and third clean sheet in the cup this year.

In the league, things have been even better. Los Blancos haven't been scoring goals like they were in November, but they've kept clean sheets in wins against Celta Vigo, Espanyol and Real Betis, while back-to-back draws for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona have seen them cut the gap to just one point on the top two.

On Saturday, they welcome Granada to the Bernabeu with the knowledge that, if they secure three points, they can temporarily move into La Liga's top spot.

Carlo Ancelotti has no major fitness concerns or suspensions ahead of the match either. Spanish outlet AS reported on Thursday that the whole squad trained apart from Sami Khedira, who is still a long-term absentee.

Only man absent from training on Thursday.
Only man absent from training on Thursday.Felice Calabro'/Associated Press/Associated Press

Unfortunately for Iker Casillas, who has now gone 592 minutes without conceding a goal, a personal record, Diego Lopez is once again set to return as the club's league goalkeeper.

The back four is looking increasingly settled now, too. So far this year, Dani Carvajal appears to have rubber-stamped his position as the right-back in La Liga, while Alvaro Arbeloa has been used in the cup matches.

Without any experienced competition, Sergio Ramos and Pepe will continue as the two central defenders, although Raphael Varane is training again, with Marcelo flanking them on the left side of defence.

Ahead of the Copa game at Cornella-El Prat in midweek, Ancelotti insisted that he saw no reason to change the 4-3-3 formation which has brought about success in 2014 so far—even if that makes it "difficult" to include Isco, via ESPN FC's Dermot Corrigan.

The Italian is unlikely to change that opinion by Saturday, and Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric and Angel Di Maria are likely to continue as the trio of midfielders.

Angel Fernandez/Associated Press

Karim Benzema, alongside Franck Ribery, has been standing trial this week for charges relating to under-age sex, according to Don Mackay of The Mirror, however it didn't affect his ability to play—and score—for Madrid in the win over Espanyol. With that in mind, the Frenchman should be set to continue as Ancelotti's No. 9 against Granada.

With the chance to go top, Ancelotti is likely to pair his two heavyweights either side of Benzema in his front three: Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. Neither scored against Espanyol—Ronaldo hit the post and Bale came close with a free-kick—but both managed golazos against Real Betis last week.

Their inclusion will mean the continued presence of Isco, Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata among the substitutes, not the starters.


Probable Real Madrid XI: Diego Lopez; Dani Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Xabi Alonso, Luka Modric, Angel Di Maria; Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo