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Real host La Liga surprise package Granada in unlikely top of table clash

Real host La Liga surprise package Granada in unlikely top of table clash
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Group A - Real Madrid v Club Brugge - Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain - October 1, 2019 Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane before the match REUTERS/Jon Nazca -
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Jon Nazca(Reuters)
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MADRID (Reuters) – Stuttering Real Madrid host high-flying Granada in an unlikely first versus second clash in La Liga on Saturday, as they look to ease the pressure on coach Zinedine Zidane.

In a topsy-turvy start to the season, Real, who sit one point ahead of the Andalusians at the top of La Liga on 15 points, tried the patience of the demanding Bernabeu crowd in midweek, needing two second half goals to secure a Champions League draw against Club Brugges. The result leaves the 13-times European champions bottom of their group after two games.

The draw came on the back of last Saturday’s drab stalemate with neighbours Atletico and coach Zidane says his side need to be more focused on the task at hand.

“Your opponent can make things difficult for you and that’s what’s happened,” he told a news conference.

“You let them score a goal, they get into the game and grow. In football you need to remain focused on the task at hand from the first minute.”

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who was substituted at half time, remains a doubt for the game through illness, while defender Nacho picked up a knee injury which will keep him out. 

Newly-promoted Granada have already beaten Barcelona in an unlikely run towards the top of the table and will be seeking another big scalp in the Spanish capital.

Barca, who have also endured a poor start to the season, find themselves in fourth on 13 points – level with Sunday’s opponent Sevilla.

Their recent upturn in form has coincided with the return of talisman Lionel Messi from injury and the Argentine pointed the finger at the club’s pre-season plans as a possible reason for the Catalans being slow out of the blocks.

“We’re on the right path now. We knew we were in a bit of a tricky patch, but if we look all over Europe all the big clubs are having trouble getting going this season,” he said.

“We’re a bit heavy legged because of pre-season. I’m not looking to criticise, but it’s a reality that when you’re travelling a lot you don’t train well, you don’t work as well as you can.

“We don’t have that base of training to build on, but we are growing and bit by bit we will go adapting to our competitive schedule.”

Elsewhere, third-placed Atletico Madrid travel to Ronaldo’s Valladolid on Sunday, while bottom of the table Leganes host Levante, looking finally to get their season up and running. 

(Reporting by Joseph Cassinelli; Editing by Mark Potter)

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