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La Liga roundup: Real Madrid remain atop of La Liga (video)

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Real Madrid’s near-perfect victory over Granada highlights La Liga’s Saturday action.

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Real Madrid 4-2 Granada

Real Madrid’s 4-2 victory over a on-fire Granada had it all: a Karim Benzema goal, Eden Hazard‘s first La Liga goal, a Luka Modric rocket goal, a laudable response from the visitor’s, and a game-winning tap-in from James Rodriguez.

Surely, the result and now a clear lead in the league’s table is what Zinedine Zidane needs to continue carrying his campaign forward in the right direction. But that’s not only what the Frenchmen is getting.

As Saturday’s result showed, Real Madrid’s star-studded lineup, following an alarming start, is back on its two feet. Luka Modric – although it’s unlikely he’ll lift it again – is regaining the level that earned him the Ballon d’Or in 2018. Gareth Bale, who had his fair share of severe ups and downs with Zidane over the summer amid talks of a move to China, has regained his from – visible in his assist to Benzema two minutes into Saturday’s game.

Hazard, too, is showing signs of the assimilation process coming to an end. The Belgium scored his first La Liga goal, and offered a well-rounded performance to compliment such accomplishment. Off the bench, James continues to make the case that he won’t stop fighting for a starting spot anytime soon.

All in all, Real Madrid’s victory against a second-place Granda, who remain as the biggest surprise of the season, goes to show that the giant is awake and hungry.

Following international break, Zidane and company will travel to Mallorca, while Granada aims to get back into winning ways against Osasuna.

Valencia 2-1 Alaves 

Just days removed from being routed in at home in Champions League play, Valencia responded in valiant fashion.

 

Back at La Mestalla, Albert Celades and company put together their second consecutive win against a tough Alaves side.

Following an efficient counter-attack, Maxi Gomez broke deadlock with a calmly taken right-footed strike inside Alaves’ box 27 minutes in.

Nothing would separate either side for nearly 60 minutes, but then a foul on Daniel Parejo occurred inside the box. A penalty was award in favor of the home side. Of course, the captain capitalized from the spot, recording his fourth of the season.

Late in stoppage time, Alaves responded with one of their own. Former Arsenal man Lucas Perez pounced on a second chance  ball inside the box, but it was far from being enough to earn the visitors any points.

Unbeaten in their last four, Valencia move to the eighth spot ahead of their match against Atletico Madrid following international break. Alavaes, on the other hand, host Celta Vigo.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Osasuna 2-1 Villareal

Leganes 1-2 Levante

La Liga roundup: Messi, Barcelona stunned by inspired Granada (video)

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Granada’s shocking 2-0 win over Barcelona and subsequent rise to the top of the table headlines Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Granada 2-0 Barcelona

Not even Lionel Messi, who made his season debut on Saturday, was able to save Barcelona against a red-hot Granada.

Granada, who are off to their best start in their 88 years of existence, had a perfect night in front of their supporters, convincingly getting past a Barcelona that dominated possession, but lacked the offensive ingenuity needed to score.

Barcelona’s defense wasn’t noteworthily robust, either.

Two minutes in, the newly promoted side scored through a headed goal from Ramon Azeez, following a defensive turnover from Junior Firpo.

Unable to record a shot on target in the first half and looking to wakeup a dormant attack, Barcelona brought on wonderkid Ansu Fati and Lionel Messi at halftime. Despite the duo connecting on several occasion and generating a shot on target, it wasn’t enough to get past Rui Silva.

In the 66th minute, following video review, substitute Alvaro Badillo converted from the spot, handing Granada their third win of the season.

Atop of La Liga, Granada set their sights on Real Valladolid, while Barcelona, who are off to their worst league start in 25 years, host Villarreal at Camp Nou.

Atletico Madrid  0-0 Celta Vigo

For a second consecutive week, Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid dropped points, drawing with Celta Vigo 0-0 at Wanda Metropolitano.

Tied with league leaders Granada and Sevilla with 10 points, the alarm bells are far from going off in Madrid. However, as Saturday’s performance showed, los Colchoneros are having trouble finishing chances this season, despite fielding an attack with the likes of Joao Felix, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata.

In five games, Atletico have managed to score only five goals, six fewer than leaders Granada. Against Celta, Atletico registered 20 shots, five on target, but were unable to crack a stellar Ruben Blanco, who registered five saves.

Leveled with Granada and Sevilla, Atletico Madrid look to get back into winning ways as they take on RCD Mallorca. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo, who have won win after five games, host Espanyol next.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Villarreal 2-0 Real Valladolid

Levante 0-0 Eibar

La Liga roundup: Sevilla edges Alaves, takes lead of league

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Sevilla becoming league leaders headlines Sunday’s La Liga action.

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Alaves 0-1 Sevilla

As far as the standings go, there is no better team in Spain’s top-flight than Sevilla. 

With a free-kick goal from Joan Jordan in the 37th minute, Julen Lopetegui’s side earned a 1-0 victory against Alaves, climbing to the summit of La Liga with 10 points, one ahead of Atletico Madrid. 

The visiting side controlled the majority of the match, dominating control of the ball and putting seven shots on frame. In the late stages of the game, off of a counter-attack, Lucas Ocampos’ rifling shot struck the post.

Alaves, who lost their first match of the season, only recording no shots on target on seven total shots. But nearly shocked everyone in attendance when Manu Garcia’s diving header went inches wide of Tomáš Vaclík goal.

Mexico international Javier “Chicharito” Hernandezmade his Sevilla debut, coming on in the 70th minute for Luuk De Jong.

The league leaders host Real Madrid next, while Alaves look to bounce back against red-hot Athletic Bilbao.

Celta Vigo 0-2 Granada

The reflectors aren’t not on them, but Granda are off to a formidable start.

To be exact, following a 2-0 win against an in-theory superior Celta Vigo, the recently-promoted side sits seventh in the table, tied with Barcelona with seven points.

The visiting side did get a big boost: a numerical advantage on the field. By the 29th minute, Celta were playing with nine players, following the direct red cards to midfielder Fran Beltran and defender Jorge Saenz. It was a one-sided game from there on out.

Right before heading into the dressing room, German Sanchez headed one home for Granada. In the 54th minute, former NYCFC midfielder Yangel Herrera’s a rocket of a shot was impossible for Ruben Blanco to save.

Granada host Barcelona next. Elsewhere, Celta Vigo hope to not look half as bad as they travel to nation’s capital to take on Atletico Madrid.

Eibar 1-2 Espanyol

Valladolid 1-1 Osasuna

Real Betis 1-1 Getafe

Zidane wary of game against already relegated Granada

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MADRID (AP) Now is not the time for Real Madrid to get careless.

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Zinedine Zidane, the former Madrid great looking to win his first Spanish league title as the team’s coach, said Saturday’s game against already relegated Granada should not be taken lightly.

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“It will be even more difficult because Granada doesn’t have anything to play for,” Zidane said Friday. “But they are still playing against Real Madrid and they still have quality players.

“You can say that their season wasn’t good because they were relegated, but it’s a team that showed that it deserved to stay in the first division. We have to prepare well and try to do our best.”

Madrid is level on points with Barcelona but trails on the head-to-head tiebreaker. Madrid, however, has four games to play while Barcelona has three, including Saturday’s match against fifth-place Villarreal at the Cam Nou.

“We have to put in our minds that this is a very important game for us,” Zidane said. “If we think that it’s going to be easy, we will be making a mistake. There are few games left and we know that these three points are important for us.”

The game at Granada is considered the easiest in Madrid’s remaining schedule. No team has lost more than Granada this season, with 23 defeats and only four wins in 35 games. Second-to-last in the standings, it has the league’s worst attack with 28 goals scored and the second-worst defense with 74 goal conceded.

Despite highlighting the importance of Saturday’s game, Zidane is expected to rest many of his regular starters ahead of next week’s match against Atletico Madrid in the second leg of the Champions League semifinals, when Madrid will be carrying a 3-0 advantage from the first game at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium.

One of the players expected to skip the game against Granada is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been rested in several matches recently and has thrived in the final stretch of the season. He scored hat tricks in his last two Champions League games, and nine goals in his last five matches in all competitions.

Ronaldo has scored 12 goals in 11 career matches against Granada, including five in a 9-1 win in 2015.

Zidane has rotated the squad regularly and the players replacing the main starters have kept the team playing well and winning.

“Sometimes the players need to get some rest if we want to peak entering the final stages,” Zidane said.

Madrid is trying to become the first team to win back-to-back Champions League titles since the competition’s format was created in 1992-93. In the Spanish league, it is trying to lift the trophy for the first time since 2012, avoiding its longest title drought since the 1980s.

“We still haven’t won anything,” Zidane said. “We could win one title, or two, or not win anything. The only thing we know is that we have to keep doing what we have been doing so far.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Colombian striker Ramos joins Granada from Dortmund

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MADRID (AP) Colombia striker Adrian Ramos has been loaned by Borussia Dortmund to struggling Spanish club Granada to June.

Financial details were not revealed on Thursday, although Dortmund has also reached a transfer agreement for Ramos with Chinese club Chongqing Dangdai Lifan that will be formalized at season’s end, the German club said.

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“Adrian Ramos was presented with a lucrative offer from China last year. When he came to us once again during the winter to express his desire to leave the club and move to China, we decided to grant his wish,” sporting director Michael Zorc explained in a statement. “Moreover, it is a very valuable offer for a player who turned 31 years last Sunday.”

Ramos, who totaled 13 goals in 52 league games in 2 1/2 seasons with Dortmund, leaves a club ranked fourth in the Bundesliga and also competing in the Champions League.

He joins the next-to-last-place team in La Liga. Granada is under the same ownership as Chongqing Dangdai Lifan.

“It’s a shaky situation, but I’m bringing a positive mindset in order to push forward. Everything is possible in football. We need to have faith and be confident”, Ramos said in Granada.

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Ramos also played previously for Hertha Berlin for five seasons, notching 16 goals in 60 league appearances.

Granada, which lost its 11th game in 19 rounds against Espanyol on Saturday, is hoping to make a push out of the relegation zone in the second half of the season.

Ramos, capped 37 times by Colombia, is the club’s third winter market signing after Greek midfielder Panagiotas Kone and Iceland defender Sverrir Ingi Ingasson.