Match Preview: Athletic Club vs Real Madrid
Atlético Madrid are within touching distance of winning LaLiga Santander, while Real Madrid find themselves in a rather complicated situation. The way it is, the Colchoneros will pip their cross city rivals to the league title but still all to play for as we enter the final week of top flight fixtures. Real play Athletic Club and Atléti host Osasuna simultaneously.
What to Expect
It’s been a week not unlike most weeks this season for Real Madrid. A torrid schedule, a seemingly never ending list of injuries and other news circulating in the media. A lot has been discussed outside of the football pitch for Los Blancos. It isn’t as if the Merengues aren’t accustomed to this sort of spotlight. However they’ve got to find methods to shrug off the pressure and win their games. They aren’t ones to back off, especially after the win in Granada.
Zinédine Zidane’s men have gone 3 games without a clean sheet. They haven’t been at their defensive best as of late. Regardless it must be said that the team is habituated to playing with a defence as bleak as this and the manager fully trusts the players he’s got, even if he’s compelled to playing two teenagers either side of his centre back’s.
Bilbao are just the side our rivals would want us to face at this stage of the season. It is impossible to rule out a team of this nature. Passionate players, a system true to its core with a tendency of disrupting the rhythm of sides higher in the league. This is the penultimate game of what has been a truly eventful season in Spain. Every team hopes to finish things off on a strong note.
Marcelino’s team have scored first in 4 of their last 5 games in LaLiga Santander. This, without doubt has been Real Madrid’s most evident fragility in recent weeks. Los Leones are likely to come out as the aggressors. With the ball, they’ll loon to run at Madrid in hoards, catch them off guard at set pieces and cross from out wide. Without it Bilbao are relentless, often disorganised. Things can go from zero to very ugly real quick and triggering that liability is precisely what Madrid must target.
Athletic will start today’s game without the services of Ander Capa, Iker Muniain, Peru Nolaskoain through injury. Iñigo Lekue, Dani García, Unai Vencedor and Yeray Álvarez are all also doubtful for the fixture. Bilbao are bound to miss some key elements to their strategy with all these absences but I don’t expect them to alter their methods one bit.
It must be said that the visiting side have the worst and possibly one of La Liga’s more intense casualty lists. The defending champions however are no newcomers to this sort of crisis. It requires little mentioning as to how many names Zinédine Zidane will miss tonight. Toni Kroos is having to self isolate after coming in contact with someone who later tested positive.
This could well mean that Federico Valverde retains his spot after a brilliant outing in Granada. Álvaro Odriozola is set to replace Marvin Park at right back after the youngster was forced off in midweek. Its quite probable that the rest of the lineup remains intact for Real, not that most of those spots choose themselves but going back to some of the more highlighted performances in the 4-1 victory over Granada.
Odriozola — Militão — Nacho — Gutiérrez
Valverde — Casemiro — Modric
Rodrygo — Benzema — Vinicius
De Marcos — Nunez — Martinez — Balenziaga
Berenguer — Vesga — Vencedor — Morcillo
I. Williams — R. Garcia
Player to Watch
Real Madrid: Federico Valverde. Luka Modrić was sublime in midweek, Rodrygo was instinctive and Miguel Gutiérrez was the talk of the town. But who was it that ran the show and made an instant impact upon his return to the XI? One name. Fede Valverde. His ability and his understanding of the game should be unquestionable by now. Even more against a team like Bilbao. Valverde’s verticality is a threat, his defensive work is an added positive and he excels in pretty much every other aspect of the game that one can think of.
Athletic Club: Iñaki Williams. The Spanish forward is a sprinter. He’s played across different positions across the frontline during his Bilbao career and is a sheer example of immense consistency. He represents what it means to be a Basque player. His goal against Sevilla two weeks back should provide enough evidence to his strength on the counter attack and his lethal pace.
Williams has evolved into more than just a lively attacker that springs into action on the counter. He’s clever in making runs in behind, finds space behind or ahead of his strike partner and is a tough rookie for anyone to mark. Containing his pace and raw power is what Madrid must do.
Athletic Club 1-3 Real Madrid
The visitors haven’t been the most secure defensively, and the hosts have won just twice in 10 games (Atleti and Sevilla). I back Marcelino’s side to grab at least a singular goal, but also expect Madrid to impose their will over the game at some stage in today’s game.