Real Madrid kept the pressure on Atlético Madrid, winning 4-1 in Granada to add a vital three points to their title challenge. This was a fun and, at points, slightly strange game. There’s a lot to discuss, then, and we do so here with three questions that were answered and three new questions that were generated.
1. Would Benzema make Granada his favourite victim?
Going into this game, the teams that Karim Benzema had scored the most goals against in his career were Athletic Club (14 goals in 23 games) and Granada (13 goals in 15 games). The ratio against Granada was already better, but now Benzema was looking to match the overall total and he did so, smartly finishing into an empty net to convert an opportunity that was harder than it might have looked. This means that there is now no team Benzema has scored more often against than Granada. Well, unless he scores against Athletic Club on Sunday to make them his favourite victim once again…
2. What kind of Granada would Real Madrid come up against?
Real Madrid have had so many injuries this season, but so too have Granada. Having had to play three rounds of Europa League qualifying and having then gone on deep runs in Europe and the Copa del Rey, Granada have played more matches this season than any other team in LaLiga Santander and that has taken its toll, meaning they had eight injuries and the suspension of Roberto Soldado going in to this game. In addition, their two starting centre-backs Domingos Duarte and Germán Sánchez weren’t 100 percent and this was quickly evident in Thursday’s match. Granada were poorer than they’ve looked for most of the season as they looked physically shattered and they might also have been mentally affected by the news one hour before kick-off that they had mathematically been ruled out of the race for the final European qualification spot. Real Madrid smelled blood and duly put Granada to the sword.
3. How would the two young full-backs do?
Once the starting line-ups were announced, it was clear that one of the main storylines in this game was going to be the two Castilla players who were starting at full-back, the 19-year-old Miguel Gutiérrez at left-back and the 20-year-old Marvin Park at right-back. Both provided assists in the first half, even if they were assists of very different types, so it can certainly be said that they both had a positive impact. It was clear that Miguel was more comfortable and had a better performance than Marvin and there are a few reasons for that. Number one, because Miguel is actually a full-back, whereas Marvin is really a winger. Number two, because Marvin had just returned from an injury a few days ago. He then picked up another and had to go off at half time, but this was still a good day’s work from the youngster.
1. Should and will Miguel Gutiérrez start ahead of Marcelo in Bilbao?
Next up for Real Madrid is Sunday’s trip to take on Athletic Club in Bilbao. That’s a difficult match. Even if the Basque side have nothing to play for, they’ve also recently defeated Atlético Madrid and Sevilla when they also had nothing to play for. With Ferland Mendy still out, will Marcelo or Miguel Gutiérrez start for Real Madrid? Making this decision all the more difficult is the fact that Castilla have a playoff match on Sunday too – against Ibiza in Badajoz – and Miguel would have to miss that in order to go with the first-team squad to Bilbao. So, will he travel with the first team? And, if so, will he start ahead of Marcelo? That’s going to be a big talking point over the coming days.
2. What really happened with Marcelo this week?
This is another talking point involving Marcelo. With the Brazilian not included in the squad for this match, despite no Parte Médico being published, there was speculation as to why he wasn’t travelling to Granada. According to Goal.com, it was because he had been involved in an argument with Zidane. Asked about this after the match, the coach replied: “No, no, no, no. He had an injury niggle and that’s why he didn’t come with us. We didn’t want to risk him.” Something, then, doesn’t add up. What really happened with Marcelo? We may not find out until some Marcelo autobiography comes out in 10 years’ time.
3. How much rest will Real Madrid get after this game?
As mentioned above, it’s a trip to Bilbao next. But first, the Real Madrid players have to get home from Granada and that isn’t easy. With the airport in Granada closed at this time of night, they will have to make an hour-and-a-half drive to go to Málaga’s airport, before flying from there to the capital. The players, then, won’t get to their beds until around 4am or 5am, before having to go for a recovery session at Valdebebas later on Friday. They’ll then go to the other side of the country by flying north to Bilbao for Sunday’s match at San Mamés. It’s a whirlwind few days, so how mentally and physically tired will they be when the ball gets rolling on Sunday evening?