Aug 25 2013, 5:36am CDT | by IANS
Real Madrid go to the game without midfield duo of Xabi Alonso and Sami Khedira through injury. Alonso broke his little toe during the week and will be out of action for two to three months after undergoing an operation in Murcia, while Khedira has a slight muscle problem, which won' t have recovered in time, reports Xinhua.
New signing Asier Illaramendi is also unlikely to start given that he only returned to full training Saturday after missing much of pre-season with a torn thigh muscle.
Young central defender Rafael Varene is a long-term absentee after damaging his meniscus ligament, meaning that Pepe will continue to partner Sergio Ramos in the heart of the Madrid back line.
The absences reduce Ancelotti's options in the centre of the park, but such is the depth of the Madrid squad that he should still be able to pair Luka Modric with Casimiro, with Mesut Ozil playing in a slightly advanced role ahead of them.
It promises to be an important game for Ozil and also for winger Angel Di Maria as Madrid prepare for the imminent arrival of Gareth Bale, who flew to Marbella on the south coast of Spain Saturday to wait for his world record transfer to Real Madrid to finally be completed.
Bale's arrival will probably mean that one of the pair will almost certainly lose their place in Ancelotti' s first choice starting 11 and with this being a World Cup season that would be a blow to their respective international ambitions.
A lot of attention will be placed on the Real Madrid goal after Ancelotti' s decision to make Diego Lopez first choice against Betis last week with Spain and Real Madrid captain, Iker Casillas, left on the subs' bench.
Ancelotti said after the game that his decision was not definitive, but if Casillas is again watching from the sidelines, serious doubts will be raised about his future at the club, especially as he too needs to play regular first team football in order to assure his place in the Spain side which will defend its World title in Brazil next year.
Casillas has been linked with Arsenal and even Barcelona, who will lose Victor Valdes at the end of the campaign, and with the transfer deadline looming, those doubts will only increase.
Granada promise to prove spirited rivals to Madrid after Lucas Alcaraz' s side kicked off the campaign with a 2-1 win away to Osasuna in the opening game of the season.
Granada have signed former Deportivo La Coruna striker Riki and Rayo's top scorer, Piti and they form an attacking threat along with the powerful Moroccan, El Arabi. The club sold key midfielder, Mikel Rico to Athletic Club Bilbao during the week, but moved quickly to replace him with Malaga's Recio and have hopes of repeating last season's win Madrid, which came thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo own goal.
"I hope he scores another own goal this time around," commented an optimistic El Arabi Saturday.
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