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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.”

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Colombian striker Ramos joins Granada from Dortmund

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
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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.

Ronaldo 8-minute hat-trick headlines Real Madrid domination of Granada

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Cristiano Ronaldo tied Alfredo de Stefano with 28 hat-tricks for Real Madrid when he scored three goals just eight minutes apart before halftime to put Real Madrid 4-0 up on Granada.

It was only just beginning.

When things finished at the Bernabeu, Real Madrid feasted upon the Granada defense, ending with a 9-1 scoreline on just 10 shots on goal for Los Blancos. Ronaldo himself finished with five goals, while Karim Benzema grabbed a pair and Gareth Bale picked up one of his own. That’s one way to bounce back from poor form.

The five-spot for Ronaldo put him ahead of Lionel Messi on the La Liga goal table with 36 goals, while Lionel Messi sits on 32 with a game to come later today against Celta Vigo. The win helps the Whites bounce back from their 2-1 loss to Barcelona, and hopefully for Carlo Ancelotti will put their recent poor form in the rear-view mirror. It also puts Real Madrid now just a point behind Barcelona for the league lead, although that figures to be short-lived.

Granada had a moment when Robert Ibanez got a consolation with 16 minutes to go already down 7-0, but it offered little sympathy as defender Mainz banged home an own-goal for Madrid’s eighth nine minutes later. One man who was not able to get on the scoresheet for the visitors was Javier Hernandez, who came on for Benzema for a half-hour of work – his most time on the pitch since he played the full 90 against Levante back in October – but he still could not manage a goal.

Reports: Mexico’s Layun seals Liga MX transfer, immediately loaned to England

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Miguel Layun’s fine World Cup for Mexico has earned him a new permanent club and a loan deal to England.

The versatile 26-year-old has sealed a deal from Club America to Granada in Liga MX, and is going on loan to Championship side Watford for the rest of this season, according to Inside Spanish Football.

Watford is pushing for promotion, currently in fifth place. The Hornets are four points safe in the race for a playoff spot and seven points back of the second automatic promotion slot.

Layun registered three assists for El Tri in their two-legged playoff win over New Zealand before playing every minute of Mexico’s World Cup Round of 16 run in Brazil.

He can also play midfield and is capable of surging, attacking runs up the field.

So… James just scored a pretty nice goal for Real Madrid (video)


Real Madrid is taking on Granada, and James Rodriguez keeps justifying his seemingly ever-rising star.

I’ve never done this, but I bet it feels pretty cool:

Before the match, Granada’s coach ripped up a newspaper headline “misquoting” him as saying his team would get steamrolled. If the second half lives up to this goal, get the man some scotch tape and the shreds.