The visitors’ head coach, Jose Mourinho, made five changes to the starting lineup from the team that held Barcelona to a 1-1 draw at the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday night, with Sergio Ramos, Luka Modric, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Fabio Coentrao coming in for Michael Essien, Jose Callejon, Mesut Ozil, Karim Benzema and Ricardo Carvalho.
However, it was the strugglers who emerged as surprise 1-0 winners ...
It was a dream start to his second spell at Granada for coach Lucas Alcaraz, whose side started the match in the relegation zone following Osasuna’s victory earlier in the day. His side, having won just two games at home all season, ended it in 14th place, six points above the relegation zone thanks to a well-earned 1-0 win, their first over Real Madrid for 41 years.
And what’s more, the new man in charge, whose father actually played for Los Blancos, deserved his dream homecoming. He sent his team out to attack the visitors when they had possession of the ball by playing with two up front, while skipper Diego Mainz was a rock at the heart of the Andalusians’ back four all night.
So, after Saturday evening’s 1-0 defeat at the Los Carmenes, that makes it four Liga contests in the region for Mourinho’s Madrid this season, and four losses, at Real Betis, Sevilla, Malaga and now Granada.
The visitors were unable to repeat their heroics from the same fixture at the back end of the last campaign when they somehow managed to overturn a similar 1-0 deficit late on to claim an unlikely win…maybe it is something in the water?
You cannot underestimate just how much mental and physical energy a Clasico takes out of the respective combatants. That is especially true when the match immediately after such a fixture is on the road, something that will most certainly be of interest to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.
His side host Real in the second and decisive leg of their upcoming Champions League Round of 16 clash immediately after the return leg of the Copa del Rey semi.
And this lacklustre display still occurred despite Mourinho making five changes to his starting lineup from Wednesday night at the Santiago Bernabeu and the visitors enjoying 60 percent of possession during the game.
Madrid created just the one opening all night when second-half substitute Karim Benzema missed one of the goals of the season, and even that took them 84 minutes.
Madrid can say goodbye now to any pre-match hope that they may have had of retaining their league title. Archrivals Barcelona will be able to open up a cavernous 18-point lead at the top of the Liga standings should they win at Valencia on Sunday night, after what was their eighth defeat on the road in all competitions this season, and their fifth in the league.
With just over a week now until the first leg of Madrid’s Champions League Round of 16 meeting with Manchester United in the Spanish capital, United manager Ferguson will have watched proceedings tonight from his Cheshire mansion with a smile on his face accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. Nothing he will have seen will have worried him in the least.
In fact, Madrid’s limp 1-0 loss will have only served to reinforce the Spaniard’s total over-reliance on playmaker Cristiano Ronaldo to be both their creator in chief and, if things are not going to plan, also the man to get them out of a hole.
And when on the rare occasion the Portugal international is having an off night, such as this evening, then the team as a whole look disjointed, uninspired and without leadership or drive.
Meanwhile, it would also not have escaped the Scot’s attention that Mourinho’s side play virtually without any width at all, instead trying to force the ball through the middle at all times, something that was only partially rectified by the late introduction of Brazil left-back Marcelo, who was returning from injury.
The Brazil international appears to have been punished by Mourinho for not re-joining AC Milan on transfer deadline day, with the player’s excessive wage demands reportedly behind the breakdown of the move after Madrid had given him the green light to return to San Siro.
However, judging from his total exclusion from the first-team squad on Saturday night in a match where he would normally have been needed on the substitutes’ bench, we can safely assume that Kaka’s season has already come to an end.