Real Madrid are on the cusp of just their second La Liga title in eight seasons. Since Spanish football resumed in June, Zinedine Zidane’s side have ground their way to eight consecutive victories – recording six clean sheets along the way.
This parsimonious defence is not a post-pandemic phenomenon, Real – surprisingly – have the best defensive record in Europe’s top four leagues this season.
Two more wins would secure Zidane’s second league crown as a manager with Europa League-chasing Granada the next opponents to try and unpick the remarkably stubborn Real Madrid backline.
Thibaut Courtois (GK) – The Belgian shot-stopper has recovered spectacularly since his early season jitters – which even prompted talk of Real Madrid lining up his replacement. Courtois goes into Monday’s clash with as many league clean sheets as goals conceded (18).
Dani Carvajal (RB) – The 28-year-old should return to the starting lineup after missing last week’s 2-0 win over Alavés through suspension. Carvajal has had a campaign consistent enough for Real Madrid to allow the sale of the highly regarded full back Achraf Hakimi to Inter.
Raphaël Varane (CB) – Somehow, the World Cup winner is still only 27. Alongside Sergio Ramos the Frenchman has been a consistent figure at the heart of Real’s resilient defence and – after shaking off a knock he picked up at the start of July – will be back alongside his captain.
Sergio Ramos (CB) – Before this weekend’s round of fixtures, no La Liga player could better Sergio Ramos’ five goals since football’s return. The man everyone loves to hate quite clearly thrives as his side’s talisman and should replace Éder Militão after – gasp – serving a yellow-card suspension last time out.
Ferland Mendy (LB) – The 25-year-old’s tussle with the veteran Marcelo for a starting berth has been put on hold for the rest of the La Liga campaign after the Brazilian picked up an injury ruling him out until August.
Casemiro (DM) – The Brazilian is fundamental to everything Real do and Zidane knows it. No teammate has played more minutes than the imperious defensive midfielder this season – a trend that will surely continue against Granada.
Federico Valverde (CM) – The dynamic Uruguayan has enjoyed a breakthrough campaign in the Spanish capital this season, jostling with some notable names for a place in the starting lineup. Valverde would come in for the 34-year-old Luka Modric who – after three starts in eight days – may need a break.
Toni Kroos (CM) – The metronomic passing of the 30-year-old has, as ever, been a prominent feature of Madrid’s midfield this season. After a rest against Athletic Club last weekend – one of three consecutive 1-0 wins – Kroos will be needed to pick apart these stubborn opponents.
Vinícius Júnior (RW) – Trying to predict which combination of wingers Zidane will plump for is a testing task given the policy of rotation the Frenchman has adopted since football’s resumption. But Vinícius Júnior – who has been a substitute for three of the past four outings – may be next in line to continue his promising development.
Karim Benzema (ST) – One position which is not up for debate is that of Zidane’s centre-forward. Benzema has missed just one La Liga game all season and rediscovered his goalscoring form since the campaign’s resumption.
Eden Hazard (LW) – The elongated nature of this La Liga season offered an opportunity for Hazard to add an encouraging addendum to what has been an injury-riddled debut campaign. After two games out with a knock, an eight-minute cameo against Alavés may have been preparation for a start on Monday night.