Thursday, May 25, 2017

Real Madrid v Granada: Benitez keen to improve in scintillating form

SoccerNews in La Liga 17 Sep 2015

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Granada face the daunting task of attempting to halt the Real Madrid goal-rush at the Santiago Bernabeu on Saturday.

Real’s frustrating opening-day stalemate at Sporting Gijon has become something of a distant memory over recent outings, with Real Betis and Espanyol sent packing 5-0 and 6-0 either side of this month’s international break.

It was a similar story for Shakhtar Donetsk, who were beaten 4-0 as Real began their Champions League campaign in emphatic fashion this week.

Cristiano Ronaldo notched a hat-trick against the Ukrainian outfit to follow a remarkable five-goal haul at Espanyol and the Portuguese superstar is just two shy of Raul’s all-time Real Madrid scoring record on 323.

“We can still improve,” coach Real Benitez told reporters after the Shakhtar victory continued his impressive start to life in the Bernabeu dugout. “I don’t want to sound arrogant, I am being objective.

“I said it was going to be an attacking team with the right balance and an element of hard work defending.

“I ask my forwards to make intelligent runs. They create dangerous situations and take advantage of them.”

Real will be without captain Sergio Ramos after he suffered a dislocated shoulder during Tuesday’s match, when fellow defender Rafael Varane departed at half-time with an ankle injury.

Those setbacks came after Gareth Bale picked up a calf problem and the Wales international is also set to miss out this weekend.

Bale’s injury, alongside James Rodriguez’s on-going absence, could mean a first Madrid start for close-season signing Mateo Kovacic, while Pepe and Nacho replaced Varane and Ramos against Shakhtar.

Granada have won all three matches away from home since Jose Ramon Sandoval was appointed as coach and successfully steered them away from relegation last May, although 3-1 losses to Eibar and Villarreal came either side of their solitary success this term at Getafe.

The corresponding fixture last season offers Granada scant encouragement. Real were 9-1 winners, with Ronaldo scoring five.

Indeed, the Andalusian side have a solitary win in their past 21 trips to the Bernabeu, losing 18.

Sandoval will be without Ruben Perez after the midfielder sprained his knee against Villarreal, with Fran Rico well-placed to take his place in the starting XI having netted a consolation goal last time out.

If Rico repeats the feat, he would become the first player to score against Real this season.

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