Breaking Down Real Madrid's Performance Against Granada
What a difference a year makes.
Real Madrid made it two wins from two in their new La Liga campaign with a 1-0 away victory over Granada. The team's strong start contrasts sharply with the sluggish efforts of last year that saw the title head back to Camp Nou.
Though three points were earned, the performance was far from convincing.
Madrid opted to utilize two playmakers in the double pivot, with Isco and Luka Modric getting the assignment. With Isco, Mesut Ozil and Modric available to spread the ball around, it promised to be a fruitful affair for Los Blancos.
But despite having 66 percent of possession, Madrid were unable to fire more than a solitary goal past Roberto. The goal came early, and was enough to see the club through to victory on the road.
Granada's defense made a laughable attempt to play an offside trap—and a looped ball over the top put Cristiano Ronaldo clear behind the back line. The Portuguese forward was less than tidy with his first touch, but Karim Benzema did well to pounce and finish at the near post.
With Ronaldo likely to see a more centralized role this term, Benzema continued to make the case that his role of a traditional striker still has a place in the squad. With the visitors ahead after just 10 minutes, it looked as if they might notch a few more to put the game out of reach.
Ozil cleverly finished an Angel Di Maria free-kick, but the goal was called back. The German again found himself in on goal only for Roberto to make a fine save. Madrid's No.10 put in a solid shift, underlining his creativity in the final third.
Ronaldo failed to find the net again, but was a constant threat on both sides of the pitch. His ability to beat defenders in either direction makes him entirely unpredictable. The forward had a few disappointing free-kicks however, noticeably blasting straight into the wall on more than one occasion.
Isco was lively. The Malaga signing has proven to be an instant contributor in the crowded attack, and nearly got on the board in the second half with a near-post strike.
Overall, the offense created a solid number of opportunities, but some well-taken chances could have created breathing room heading late into the match.
Once again, Carlo Ancelotti put his faith in Diego Lopez ahead of Iker Casillas—just as his predecessor did last season.
The goalkeeper remains a strong point in the side, showing confidence in his box and distributing the ball well. There were some shaky moments in the second half, but the 31-year-old was able to keep a clean sheet.
Alvaro Arbeloa also got the start over Dani Carvajal, indicating what is sure to be a fiercely contested right-back slot this season. Arbeloa had a mediocre game. The Spanish international made no case that he deserves the job in the future, but his outing certainly wasn't poor enough to strip him of the position altogether.
It would be foolish not to recognize the fragility displayed late in the match. With a one-goal lead, the game was still very much alive for Granada. The home side didn't enjoy much of the ball, but had a host of chances near the end of time.
Ancelotti introduced Carvajal, Casemiro and Nacho Fernandez in an attempt to see the game through. While the game was saved, two of his substitutes were conspicuously at fault. Nacho was toyed with on the left side of defense, and was beaten all ends up on one occasion that nearly led to a goal for Granada.
Nacho may have been beaten, but it was Casemiro that almost ruined the game for Madrid. His clumsy challenge from behind on Diego Buonanotte was an obvious penalty to everybody but the referee. He got off clean, however, and Madrid were spared.
In the end, Los Blancos left Los Carmenes with all three points. A win on the road is never guaranteed, and they did well to make Benzema's early strike hold up.
Their performance, however, was far from complete. Ronaldo was frustrated throughout the match and could only muster a few half-chances. His scoring form is critical to the side's success, but it is only a matter of time before he hits top form yet again.
Isco and Modric provided a creative double pivot, but neither has the physical tools to battle in the middle of the pitch. Either option would do well with the addition of Sami Khedira or Xabi Alonso when they become fit.
Real Madrid will be happy with the result, and can only move forward from here. The new signings have proven to be useful additions to the squad, and they can look ahead to their home match against Athletic Bilbao with confidence.
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