Zinedine Zidane’s rampant Real Madrid travel to Andalusia for the second time in two weeks after having drawn against Real Betis in late January, but will be eager to secure all three points this time around against José Ramón Sandoval’s Granada outfit. Despite having troubled Los Blancos at the Bernabéu last September in a narrow 1-0 win for the Whites, Ronaldo and co. will be hoping to continue their fine goalscoring form against the 19th-placed Granada.
Real Madrid are likely to be seven points behind La Liga frontrunners FC Barcelona when facing Granada, and Zidane acknowledges that only a victory will suffice. "We must begin the game strongly. We must do things differently than against Betis. We cannot drop more points. Only a win is any good for us."
Gareth Bale, who scored a hat-trick in Zidane’s first game as manager, continues to overcome a calf injury and will miss the showdown against the relegation-threatened Granada side. "He is better, but not fully recovered, it is better to do things well and go step by step," Zidane said.
Cristiano Ronaldo, after having scored a record 29th hat-trick in La Liga last weekend against Espanyol and celebrating his 31st birthday on Friday, will be confident that he can steer clear of Luis Suárez as the league’s top scorer this Sunday evening. The Portuguese powerhouse, although relatively quiet per his own standards this season, only needs to score once to break the 20 mark.
Granada have the second worst defense in the division and may find it difficult to contain a Madrid side who have netted 17 times in their last four league matches. Still, forward Youssef El-Arabi, Granada’s top scorer in La Liga with five goals to his name, is poised that his side can cause trouble for the mighty Madrid. "I hope that if we put in intensity and if we are together, as we were in Madrid, we can play a good game and win," he said.
Such courage may only get Granada so far however, as only Rayo Vallecano (47) have conceded more goals than Granada’s 44 this season. In addition, the Andalusian side have conceded three or more goals in four out of their seven fixtures in 2016 and have managed to only keep one clean sheet in their 22 first division games this season. While they have won their last two games of the league at home, Granada seems set to struggle against a hungry and fervent Real Madrid side.
Expect birthday-boy Cristiano Ronaldo to celebrate in fashion as Los Blancos look to close the gap in what is already an uphill battle for the La Liga title.