Tough Granada test should hold few surprises for Madrid

Posted by Nicholas Rigg

Denis Doyle/Getty ImagesLast year's visit to Granada was a frustrating one for Real Madrid, who lost on Cristiano Ronaldo's first career own goal.

Los Carmenes is a place that should hold few surprises for Real Madrid on Monday night.

On paper, Los Blancos will be expected to make it two wins out of two as Carlo Ancelotti experiences his first away trip in La Liga at Granada. Then again, Madrid were hot favourites to leave the Andalusian city with all three points last season and they came away with nothing, zilch, zip.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal of the game when the sides last met in February. Nothing unusual there, other than the fact it came via own goal, which was a career first for the Portuguese. Granada secured a vital 1-0 victory to pile more woe on Jose Mourinho and give their own survival hopes a huge shot in the arm.

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Madrid's problems at Los Carmenes are not new. Before last season's painful defeat, Granada almost, and probably should have, upset a Madrid side that went on to become champions. Franco Jara gave Granada a fifth-minute lead and Mourinho's men only drew level nine minutes from time through a Ronaldo penalty before a late, late David Cortes own goal saved Madrid's bacon in a match that saw Moises Hurtado and Guilherme Siqueira sent off late for the hosts.

So any tricks that are up the sleeves of Granada this time around should be expected, if not exactly wanted, by Madrid. It may be a new experience for Ancelotti and his coaching team, but his players will know all about the problems Granada can pose. And this time, arguably, the Andalusians will be even stronger under boss Lucas Alcaraz and his new recruits over the summer.

In a league that is expected to be tight at the top between the big two of Barcelona and Madrid come the end of the season, every point is crucial. But Madrid's trip to Granada could be vital to the way their season pans out, especially given the difficulties of last season -- at Granada and in general on their travels.

Madrid's loss at "El Grana" earlier this year typified their problems last season. At the Bernabeu, Madrid won 17 and drew just two of their matches, without losing a single home game all season. On their travels, they won nine, drew five and lost five. Barca lost just twice on their travels and won 14.

It wasn't so much the so-called bigger clubs that proved to be the biggest obstacles away from home for Madrid; it was more so the clubs where Mourinho and his men were expected to leave with maximum points with relative ease. This time last season, Madrid made the short trip to Getafe and came away with a 2-1 defeat. It set the tone for their campaign and left the capital club chasing their Catalan rivals right from the off. It goes without saying that Madrid will be extremely keen to avoid such an early setback this time around.

Diego Lopez was in goal when Ronaldo smashed a powerful header beyond him at Los Carmenes last time out but, despite starting last weekend's opener against Betis, Ancelotti could well opt for a return for Iker Casillas for his first league start since January. Undoubtedly, who starts in goal will be the major talking point before kickoff, with Ancelotti preferring Lopez last weekend but hinting that he could give "Saint Iker" a run out.

Carletto also hinted, even before last weekend's opener, that Alvaro Arbeloa could be back in at Granada. Dani Carvajal started last weekend but in the pre-match news conference the Madrid boss said Arbeloa's long trip with Spain for an international match had an impact on his decision to leave him out. Carvajal, although only featuring in his first match since returning to the Bernabeu from Bayer Leverkusen, did not exactly look solid at the back and Madrid could do with the tried-and-trusted Arbeloa for Jornada 2.

While there will be crucial business on the pitch, there could also be plenty of business going off the pitch in Andalusia, too. Reports suggest Siqueira, who got sent off in the fixture last season, is a target for Madrid as a replacement for Fabio Coentrao, who hasn't been included in Madrid's travelling squad and is expected to leave the club before the transfer window closes. Liverpool and Everton are understood to have also been tracking Siqueira, but Madrid seem to see him as the ideal backup to Marcelo.

The match could also be the last one pre-Bale, with the Welshman expected to be unveiled at the Bernabeu this week and as early as Tuesday. Madrid bought Luka Modric from Spurs just after their second game of last season and are set to take someone else from White Hart Lane 12 months on. Madridistas will just be hoping that deal is not announced after another dismal defeat on the road.


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