Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid - Spanish Primera Division
Saturday, 07/03/2015 - San Mames, Bilbao, Spain
Athletic Bilbao team may not be repeating their excellent 4th place finish from last season in La Liga, but their league form has picked up recently. They have gone unbeaten in 5 of their last 6 league matches while keeping a clean sheet in 4 of their last 5. Their 11 points over this stretch has seen them comfortably away from the relegation zone but that may not be a good thing for their chances here. Furthermore, they have been defeated by multiple goals against similar competition to Real in Barcelona (twice, 5:0 and 2:0), Atletico (4:1), Villarreal (2:0), and of course to Real Madrid themselves (5:0). It has not been what one would call a successful season for Los Leones, but Wednesday saw them comfortably dispatch Espanyol in the Copa del Ray semifinals to set up a title bout in May with Barcelona. That victory will have given them confidence for this Saturday’s seemingly-impossible task of toppling the league leaders, though with 9 losses in their last 10 La Liga meetings against Madrid, avoiding defeat on Saturday will take a monumental effort and perhaps a bit of luck for the 10th-placed hosts.
Real Madrid team faltered in their title challenge last time out, dropping 2 points out of their previous 4-point lead on Barcelona when they drew 1:1 with Villarreal. The draw not only allowed Barcelona to come back within striking distance but it also saw both Atletico and Valencia sneak back in at 7 and 8 points back, respectively. Surprisingly, it was their first draw at the Bernabeu all season in La Liga action and just the 5th time they have been held without a win through 25 league fixtures. Critics are beginning to ask questions about this team’s mental fortitude and whether Carlo Ancelotti really is the right man for the job. But the visitors can temporarily put those concerns to bed here in Bilbao against a team they have defeated in 19 of their last 21 meetings in all competitions. They have outscored Los Leones with 37 goals to just 6 conceded in their last 10 Liga meetings, claiming all 9 of their wins in this stretch by multiple-goal margins of victory. While Sergio Ramos and James Rodriguez remain absent, the visitors have a full squad to call upon other than that.
Athletic Bilbao: Iraizoz – de Marcos, Etxeita, Laporte, Balenziaga – M. Rico, San Jose – M. Susaeta, Iker Muniain, Ibai Gomez – Aduriz.
Real Madrid: Casillas – Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo – Lucas Silva, T. Kroos – Bale, Isco, C. Ronaldo – Benzema.