Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is eager not to pass up the chance to move top of the Primera Division table when his side hosts Granada on Saturday. Having closed the gap to Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the top of the table from five points to just one in the last two weeks, Madrid can, temporarily at least, go to the summit before their rivals take to the pitch on Sunday. Ancelotti knows, though, that his side cannot afford to look too far ahead.
"It means that we are doing a good job and tomorrow we have a great opportunity to be league leaders when we go to sleep,” he said, reports Spanish sports daily AS. “But what we really have to think about is making sure that we play well, are focused on the game and win.”
That Madrid find themselves firmly back in the title race is in large part down to keeping six clean sheets in a run of six-straight wins in all competitions in January. It is a stark contrast from the start of the season when there were plenty of teething problems for Ancelotti in accommodating his wealth of attacking talent while also maintaining a sense of defensive solidity.
"The team have good balance and are focused on recovery [of the ball],” he explained. “Our defenders and midfielders are in food form, the team have managed to remain solid in defense and found solutions in attack. We need to be cautious, because we could either improve or find ourselves taking a step backwards in regards to results and the team's play. We need to prepare well.”
After thumping Real Betis 5-0 in Seville last weekend, MAdrid grabbed a narrow 1-0 win at Espanyol in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal. In recent weeks, Ancelotti has opted for a 4-3-3 formation with Angel di Maria operating in a midfield role behind a fearsome front three of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema. Ancelotti has confirmed he will go with the same formula again against Granada, meaning that there once again won’t be a place for attacking midfielder Isco.
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“He hasn't had many opportunities in the last few games because of the system we have been playing,” he said. “He has played as a false nine in some games. Perhaps we will change the system again in a few games' time [and Isco will get another chance]. Our formation is not definitive. We have also won a lot of games with a 4-2-3-1.”
After a poor start to the season, Granada sit fairly comfortably in mid-table and followed up an impressive 4-0 victory over Real Valladolid two weeks ago with a goalless draw against Osasuna. Coach Lucas Alvarez will have Tiago Ilori in line for a debut at the Bernabeu after the Portuguese central defender completed his loan move from Liverpool this week.
Where to watch: The Spanish Primera Division contest will kick off at 10 a.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sports, with a live stream available on beIN Sports Play.