Match Preview: Athletic Club vs Real Madrid – 2021/22

By: Mohammed Sahel

Real Madrid and Athletic Club battle it out in Riyadh tonight. In the quest for the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona and Atlético Madrid have already been eliminated. Now, the champions from the previous two editions meet at the King Fahd Stadium. 

Athletic Club can pride themselves over what was a gritty, resolute and aggressive performance versus Atlético Madrid. Real Madrid too left it late in overthrowing Barça in a Clasico that will stay in the memories for sometime. Chances are, tonight’s match provides for the perfect climax to what has been a thrilling mini-tournament. 

What to Expect: 

In many ways, it’s the same with Bilbao. It’s always the same. Marcelino’s team press high and are aggressive in midfield. Turn-over’s, counter attacks from deep and set pieces are their best bets at putting the ball in the oppositions net. Patience however, is what will keep Real Madrid in control of the match. 

Not only will Bilbao pose less of a goal threat as compared to Barça, they will also let Madrid be in command of possession. Marcelino was concise about his side’s intentions. Posing a threat by rapidly transitioning into the final third, and by aiming to be a tad bit more efficient therein. 

“We don’t change a lot of things on a general level as a team. Press high when the ball is in Courtois’ goal and withdraw when appropriate as a block, higher or lower. When it comes down to us we will try to suffer, we are not going to try to beat Madrid without suffering. When we have the ball, according to how they defend, they go to mid and low blocks more than before and they are very reliable at the back. We will have to attack judiciously. In both phases we have to be intelligent, in how we have to act and do it very quickly and organised.” — Marcelino

Real Madrid will need to be secure at the back, without making errors. That, and defending set pieces and the likes will be what Ancelotti’s team must prepare for most. Afterall, a cross into a tall striker (Bilbao play with two) is what stings Madrid the most. For Athletic Club, It’s about pressing high and retreating into a compact mid-low block. Finals like this one are decided on margins. In Marcelino’s words, Los Blancos cannot win without suffering. 

Team News: 

Marco Asensio and Jesus Vallejo were absent from the team’s final training session in Riyadh yesterday. Dani Carvajal was most unfortunate to test positive for Covid right after his latest return from injury. Questions over David Alaba’s fitness put the Austrian’s involvement under jeopardy. 

Last week’s super-sub Rodrygo may replace Asensio on the wing. Lucas Vázquez will gladly make his return to the starting XI. And Nacho Fernandez will hold a considerable degree of responsibility in withholding Bilbao’s press and their counter-attacking pedigree. 

Unai Nunez, Unai Vencedor, Ander Capa and Asier Villalibre are all currently on the sidelines for the Basque outfit. Mikel Vesga, Raul Garcia, Nico Williams and Yuri Berchiche all came off the bench in the semi-final and will be in contention should Marcelino decide to shuffle his pack for this match. 

Expected Line-ups: 

Real Madrid: 


Vázquez — Militão — Alaba — Mendy 

Modrić — Casemiro — Kroos 

Rodrygo — Benzema — Vini Jr.

Athletic Club: 


De Marcos — Yeray — Martinez — Balenziaga 

Berenguer — Vesga — Garcia — Muniain 

Sancet — Iñaki Williams

Player(s) to Watch: 

Real Madrid: Karim Benzema. France football player of the year, with yet another goal last week, things are going pretty steadily for Nueve at the moment. It’ll have to be a special display tonight though, an exhibition of the Frenchman’s class and excellence in front of goal, and hopefully that leads Ancelotti’s men to victory.

Athletic Club: The Williams’ brothers. Iñaki will likely start the game while his brother Nico will be substituted on later. It isn’t about whether or not Bilbao catch Madrid out on the break, it’s about whether they take advantage of it. Marcelino mentioned how it’s become more and more difficult to counter against Madrid as the season’s progressed but if there’s two players fit for the occasion, it’s them.


Athletic Club 1-1 Real Madrid.

Real Madrid win on Penalties. 

I reckon it’ll go through 30 minutes of extra time, then penalties. This will be much closer than many will have thought but that’s just me, what are your predictions? Comment them down below. Hasta El Final Vamos Real!

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