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Granada v Real Madrid: El-Arabi backs revamped hosts to shock Zidane´s men

Youssef El-Arabi says Granada can spring a shock against Real Madrid on Sunday if they can replicate the performance they produced earlier this season.

Madrid boast a formidable recent record against the Andalusians, having won all of their last five meetings in La Liga – including a 9-1 hammering at the Santiago Bernabeu last April.

Zinedine Zidane’s team responded from their 1-1 draw with Real Betis to fire six past Espanyol last Sunday, meaning they have now scored 17 times in four league matches since the Frenchman took charge.

Granada posed problems for Madrid back in September, with the home side battling to a 1-0 win while still under the guidance of Rafael Benitez, and El-Arabi says that performance should give his side encouragement that they can edge a win.

“It’s quite a difficult week because we have some new players coming in and three games against big teams,” he said, with Granada having signed Ricardo Costa, Abdoulaye Doucoure and former Barcelona winger Isaac Cuenca in the transfer window.

“We played a good game against Villarreal [a 1-0 defeat last Saturday] but we missed out on the points, and I think we have the quality to do something good on Sunday.

“Madrid are a good team, they have players of a high level, but as players we like this kind of game. If we’re united as we were in Madrid, we can win.”

Madrid sit four points adrift of Liga leaders Barcelona having played a game more, and their hopes of a first title since 2012 look slim at present given the champions’ relentless form.

Yet goalkeeper Kiko Casilla insists they will not abandon hopes of hauling in Luis Enrique’s side as they prepare for a tough run of fixtures this month, which includes the Champions League last-16 tie against Roma.

“As long as there is a mathematical possibility of winning we will be in the mix, Real Madrid have to battle until the end,” Casilla told the club’s official website. 

“We know that it is difficult but we are going to fight because we have a good dynamic with the new manager and I believe that we are going to battle until the end.”

Madrid head to Granada without Gareth Bale (calf) and Pepe (foot), who have continued to train alone this week in their efforts to recover quickly.

Los Blancos will hope to see Cristiano Ronaldo, who turned 31 on Friday, celebrate his birthday in style at Los Carmenes. Granada are the first side in La Liga against whom the Portugal forward scored five goals in one match, in that 9-1 drubbing last season.

Key Opta Stats:

– Granada have won consecutive home games in La Liga this season – a sequence that did not occur in the whole of last season – with at least two goals scored in both of these games.
– Madrid have gone three consecutive games without winning away from home (D2 L1) – a sequence that has not occured in the same season since 2008/09.
– Only PSG (58), Barcelona (54) and Borussia Dortmund (52) have scored more goals than Gareth Bale, Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo this season in Europe’s top five leagues (50: Ronaldo, 19; Benzema,18; Bale,13).
– Granada have conceded more goals in the 15 minutes before the interval than any other side in the league (9) and Real Madrid have scored the most in this period (9).

Fri 5 Feb, 2016
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