La Liga Tips: Athletic Club v Real Madrid

By on March 9, 2015

Real Madrid travel to the San mames Barria to face Athletic Bilbao on Saturday evening as they look to get back to winning ways and maintain their lead over FC Barcelona, after recently dropping points against Villarreal.

Athletic Club have had a mixed season to say the least. On one hand, they have struggled in La Liga this term and have failed to replicate the form from the previous season. Furthermore, their campaigns in Europe bore no fruit either as they were first kncoked out of the Champions League at the group stages and then from the Europa League at the hands of Torino, in the first knockout round. However, they recently made their way into the Copa del Rey final and Ernesto Valverde will be very pleased if they can salvage something still from this season. Securing a cup final spot means that they could potentially secure a spot in next season’s Europa League as well. As far as the Liga goes, Athletic are currently 10th in the rankings with 30 points from twenty five games and are just 2 points behind 8th placed Espanyol. However, there is an 11 point gap between them and 7th placed Malaga so the best Valverde’s side can hope for right now is a top 10 finish. They face Real Madrid in this game and the coach will be hoping that the recent success in the Copa del Rey can trigger them to perform in this game as well. They are certainly in good form and playing in front of their home fans, could cause an upset. However, they must be intensely focused on the game if they are to get anything here.

Athletic Club have been in good form recently having won three of their last five games while drawing one and losing the other, in all competitions. Both those games where they could not secure a win were against Torino in the Europa League. Their last game was the 2-0 away win against Espanyol in the 2nd leg of the Copa del Rey semi final which saw them qualify for the final against Barcelona. Athletic Club have kept a clean sheet in their last 3 matches in La Liga. But the Basque side have conceded at least 3 goals in 9 of their last 10 meetings against Real Madrid.

Real Madrid are the current league leaders in Spain as Carlo Ancelotti has set his eyes on a league title in his second season at the Club. Although Los Blancos have a lead over rivals Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, it is a very thin one and the Italian coach knows full well that his side have to be more consistent if they are to lift the title this season. They lead the table with 61 points from twenty five games and are currently just 2 points ahead of FC Barcelona. Furthermore, they lead their local rivals Atletico Madrid by 7 points. As we approach the second El Clasico of the season, Carlo Ancelotti will be hoping that his side can maintain their lead till that game so that they can have a much easier approach to that game. If they drop points before that game, it will put Los Blancos under immense pressure and it could alter their entire season. Thus, this game is of utmost important and a win here is absolutely necessary for Ancelotti’s men. They face Athletic Club in this game, and this could be a tricky fixture for Real Madrid who have not been in excellent shape of late. They were very poor in the last game against Villarreal, even though they were playing at home, and another performance like that could see them drop points here. Especially since this game will be played at the San Mames. But they do have enough firepower in their ranks to overcome any side. They are still the favorites here and anything short of a victory would be a poor result.

Real Madrid have been in good form since their defeat against Atletico Madrid. They have won three out of the four games since that loss while drawing the other. Their last game was the lucky 1-1 draw against Villarreal at home, which saw their lead at the top reduced to just 2 points. Real Madrid have won 10 of their last 12 away matches in La Liga and have won 19 of their last 21 matches against Athletic Club in all competitions.

Athletic Club will have to make do without the services of midfield anchor man Ander Iturraspe as he is still out with an injury. Mikel San Jose will also miss out owing to a suspension. Second choice goalkeeper Iago Herrerin is doubtful for this game and will be assessed closer to kickoff. Carlos Gurpegi could replace iturraspe in midfield once more, with Xabi Etxeita covering up in the center of defense. Oscar de Marcos is again expected to start at right back. Benat is expected to start this one as well alongside Iker Muniain and Markel Susaeta.

Real Madrid have a few injury worries of their own as Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez will both miss this one as they recover. Raphael Varane will start in place of Sergio Ramos. Luka Modric returned from injury and is back in training but is unlikely to start this game. Lucas Silva is expected to start this one laongside Toni Kroos and Isco. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema will lead the attack.

DATE: March 7, 2015

TIME: 5:00 PM GMT

VENUE: San Mames Barria, Bilbao

PROBABLE LINE-UPS:
Athletic Club (4-2-3-1):- Iraizoz; Balenziaga, Laporte, Etxeita, De Marcos; Rico, Gurpegi; Muniain, Benat, Susaeta; Aduriz
Real Madrid (4-3-3):- Casillas; Marcelo, Pepe, Varane, Carvajal; Silva, Kroos, Isco; Ronaldo, Benzema, Bale

LAST MEETING: October 5, 2014 | La Liga | Real Madrid 5-0 Athletic Club

RECENT FORM:
Athletic Club:- W W L W D
Real Madrid:- D W W W L

AUTHOR’s PREDICTION: Athletic Club 1-2 Real Madrid

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