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Copa del Rey Final

A plum pairing

Graham Hunter told Revista that a Gonzalo Higuain-Karim Benzema tandem could go some way to ending Real Madrid's ills.

Last Updated: 06/02/13 at 10:30 Post Comment

Real lost 1-0 at lowly Granada on Saturday - their fifth away La Liga defeat of the term - to slip 16 points adrift of table toppers Barcelona, who themselves were held at Valencia over the weekend.

Argentine striker Higuain started the clash at Los Carmenes before being replaced at half-time by French colleague Benzema - but Hunter reckons the frontmen should play in unison, citing last season's success as the reason.

"It is easy to criticise (Jose) Mourinho when Real Madrid lose, but I find it confusing that he has ripped up another part of what was a successful playbook (by not playing Higuain with Benzema)," said the Spanish-based football journalist.

"Last year, particularly when Real were away from home or needed to overturn a scoreline, Benzema and Higuain were on the pitch together 20 times, scored 51 goals and helped Real get 16 wins and a draw.

"However, this year they have only been on the pitch together five times, taking into account the short period when Higuain was injured, and it is a now a case of either or. I am not sure that is the answer when what Mourinho wants is the extra goal, fight and spirit."

Awful

Hunter's fellow Revista pundit Terry Gibson slammed Real for a lack of guile during their reverse at Granada and thinks Mourinho - who Guillem Balague says is odds-on to join Paris-Saint-Germain in the summer - may need to alter his training methods.

"(The loss to Granada) was as bad as it's been during Mourinho's time at the Bernabeu," said the former Wimbledon striker. "Granada didn't play particularly well but the quality of passing, crossing, and shooting from the Real players was awful.

"I can't believe this is the same team that won recently 5-0 at Valencia and played so well against Barcelona in the Copa del Rey (on Wednesday evening).

"The preparation seems all wrong; the players that didn't play in midweek should be fresh at the weekend so maybe the training isn't intense enough."

Goals

Barcelona, meanwhile, once again opted to start with David Villa - Spain's all-time record goal-scorer with 53 goals from his 85 games - on the bench, the 31-year-old entering the fray as a 72nd-minute replacement for Cesc Fabregas.

Balague says stand-in Barca coach Jordi Roura, who is deputising for Tito Vilanova while he undergoes cancer treatment, does not want to risk "getting things wrong" by altering the shape and personnel of the line-up.

But Gibson says the Catalans - who visit AC Milan for the first leg of their last-16 Champions League tie on Wednesday, February 20 - need more potency up front and that Villa is the man to supply it.

"I still think Pedro, Lionel Messi and Villa is Barca's best option in attack," Gibson said.

"They are trying to get Fabregas in but I think they need more goals from the wider attacking players and Alexis Sanchez hasn't proved to be the answer."

Hit this link to hear more of the boys' thoughts on Villa and Barcelona.

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