Real Madrid will be looking to bounce back and return to winning ways when they come face to face with Athletic Bilbao away from home at the Estadio San Mames in Bilbao on Sunday night. The defending La Liga champions lost to Villarreal in the Spanish top flight previously before surrendering their Supercopa de Espana crown to Barcelona in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Athletic Club suffered a 3-1 loss at the hands of Real Sociedad in their last La Liga encounter on January 14.
Despite losing to Real Sociedad in their last Spanish top flight encounter, Athletic Bilbao bounced back strongly. They defeated Espanyol 1-0 to progress to the next round of the Copa del Rey with Oscar de Marcos scoring the only goal of the game inside the first half hour. As a result, the Basque side will face Valencia in the quarter-finals of the cup competition next week.
In La Liga, however, Athletic Club are going through a disappointing run of form at the moment. They have managed just a single win in their last five games in the Spanish top flight and that poor run has seen them dropping down to the eighth position in the table.
Athletic Club have collected 26 points from 17 matches but remain involved in the hunt for European football with only five points separating them from the Champions League spots. The Lions suffered a 3-1 loss to rivals Real Sociedad last weekend, with their last win in La Liga coming at home to Real Valladolid on November 8.
If Ernesto Valverde’s side can turn a corner in terms of form and momentum soon, they might be able to compete with Atletico Madrid and Real Sociedad for the top four spots. At the moment, however, it seems like a distant dream and the Europa League could prove to be a more realistic target for them.
Athletic have finished 11th, 10th and eighth in their last three seasons, but the team will certainly be eyeing a European finish this term.
Valverde’s team have been strong at home this season, picking up 17 points from nine league games at San Mames, but they will be welcoming a Real Madrid side with the second-strongest away record, claiming 21 points from their nine matches on their travels.
Real Madrid, on the other hand, are arriving into this game on the back of an emphatic performance in their last game. They came roaring back from 2-0 down to secure a 4-2 victory over Villarreal in the Copa del Rey and secure passage to the next round.
That win will inspire plenty of confidence in Los Blancos after their Supercopa de Espana final loss to Barcelona. Carlo Ancelotti was thoroughly outclassed by Xavi’s tactics and Real Madrid failed to cope with the four-man Barcelona midfield and didn’t find a foothold at any stage of the game, losing 3-1 on the night.
They were put under thorough examination once again by Villarreal, who were the last side that they had faced in La Liga. On that occasion, Quique Setien’s side had secured a massive 2-1 win at the Estadio Ceramica and handed Real Madrid a major blow. Thanks to that defeat, Barcelona were able to open up a three-point lead at the top of the table and they will go six points clear with a win over Getafe at the Camp Nou with the match taking place just before this contest.
It is difficult to be too critical of Los Blancos considering that they have taken 38 points from 16 league games this season, but they have two tough fixtures to end the month, following this contest with a home match against a very impressive Real Sociedad outfit.
Real Madrid have actually won each of their last five league games against Athletic, while they have not lost to the Basque outfit in Spain’s top flight since March 2015.
This will be another huge test for Los Blancos, who have not been able to find their best form since returning to action following the 2022 World Cup.
BIL vs RMA, La Liga 2022/23
Date: 23rd January, 2023
Time: 1:30 AM IST
Venue: San Mames, Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao La Liga form:
Athletic Bilbao form (all competitions):
Real Madrid La Liga form:
Real Madrid form (all competitions):
Athletic Bilbao wins: 12
Real Madrid wins: 39
Athletic Bilbao Team News:
Athletic Bilbao will miss the services of Yeray Alvarez due to the red card that the centre-back saw in the previous encounter with Real Sociedad last weekend. He has been handed a three game suspension.
Inigo Martinez also remains a major doubt through injury, meanwhile, so Aitor Paredes could feature in the middle of the defence for the Basque side.
A couple of changes are expected from the side that started against Espanyol in the Copa del Rey last time out, with Inaki Williams and Unai Simon set to return to the side.
Real Madrid Team News:
Real Madrid, meanwhile, will again be missing Lucas Vazquez due to a long-term ankle problem after he suffered a serious injury in the Supercopa de Espana semi-final with Valencia.
David Alaba, Aurelien Tchouameni and Dani Carvajal are also still on the sidelines with injuries, and the trio have been joined in the treatment room by Eden Hazard, who has an ankle problem, but veteran midfield maestro Luka Modric is back in the squad after being given a rest against Villarreal in the Copa del Rey.
Eduardo Camavinga could end up retaining his spot in the midfield department, with Federico Valverde potentially being moved further forward to join Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior in the front three. Nacho, meanwhile, is expected to again feature at right-back for the capital giants.
Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Simon; De Marcos, Paredes, Vivian, Yuri; D Garcia, Vesga; I Williams, Sancet, N Williams; Guruzeta
Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Nacho, Militao, Rudiger, Mendy; Modric, Camavinga, Kroos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius
This is another huge test for Real Madrid, with Athletic a very dangerous opponent. The Basque outfit have struggled to pick up wins in the league of late, though, and have been sloppy in recent games. Ernesto Valverde will hope to do his former side a favour and deal Real Madrid another fatal blow but with Ancelotti’s side making a more than stellar recovery against Villarreal in the previous game, the players will be full of confidence and will be desperate to resuscitate their La Liga title charge.