What: Spanish La Liga
Who: Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao
When: Sunday 1st September, 2013, at 11:00 UK Time
Where: Santiago Bernabeu, Madrid, Spain

Better Than Last Time

It has not been champagne football so far for Real Madrid, but the club have managed to make it six points out of a possible six so far in this league season, as opposed to just one last term. The team have been more possessive in play, yet less dangerous on the ball under Carlo Ancelotti. Facing Athletic Bilbao, they will need to win in order to continue on par with title holders Barcelona.

There appears to be a better atmosphere at the club at the moment, as the debate regarding the first-choice goalkeeper seems to have cooled down – at least publicly. Furthermore, Gareth Bale is on the way in, with Welshman expected to be a Blanco before the transfer window shuts down.

The home side have been in very good form against Athletic Bilbao in recent games, as they have scored at least four times in the last four encounters at the Santiago Bernabeu. As a matter of fact, the home side have been victorious in all of the last six games that were disputed between them and their Basque adversaries.

Need to Show Up

Athletic Bilbao have enjoyed a 100% start to their league season, but their luck is in danger of running out when they travel south and face Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu. Despite knowing that their recent record against Los Merengues is deplorable, there is reason for optimism at Los Leones as they start a new era under Ernesto Valverde. A surprise win or a draw at the Santiago Bernabeu would serve as a great stepping stone.

The Basque outfit are undefeated in their last five away games in the league system, but that record might come to an end when they face Ancelotti’s men, according to midfielder Benat, who highlighted his opponents’ abilities. 

“The most important thing is to win and to collect as many points as possible. It is a joy to take a point or three. This Madrid side are very complete: Serious in defence, have quality players in midfield and put chances away in attack”, commented the former Real Betis man.

With players like Benat and Kike Sola joining the fray this season at the San Mames, there is every chance that Athletic Bilbao might break the deadlock this time around and prevent Real Madrid from claiming a third victory.


Recent form

Real Madrid:
Real Madrid 5-0 Al Sadd (22/08; Friendly)
Granada 0-1 Real Madrid (26/08; La Liga)
Deportivo La Coruna 0-4 Real Madrid (29/08; Friendly)

Athletic Bilbao:
Cardiff 2-1 Athletic Bilbao (10/08; Friendly)
Real Valladolid 1-2 Athletic Bilbao (17/08; La Liga)
Athletic Bilbao 2-0 Osasuna (23/08; La Liga)

Key absences

Real Madrid: Xabi Alonso; Raphael Varane; Asier Illarramendi (doubt); Sami Khedira (doubt)

Athletic Bilbao: Gorka Iraizoz (doubt); Mikel San Jose (doubt); Borja Ekiza

Players to watch

Real Madrid – Cristiano Ronaldo: the Portuguese has scored ten goals against Athletic Bilbao so far with Real Madrid. The arrival of Bale, and his hefty price tag, will only serve as motivation for the winger to show his bosses and fans that he is still the star at the club.

Athletic Bilbao – Iker Muniain: The young gem of Athletic Bilbao’s youth system is expected to come to life this season after a successful summer with Spain’s Under-21 side. Capable of playing as a forward or on the left-side, he will provide great stress for the Real Madrid defence.

Match Prediction

Athletic Bilbao travel in high spirits to Madrid this time around, but the nine-time Champions League winners will be eager to earn a big result in La Liga. In front of their own fans, they almost always win, and should be able to do so. Real Madrid 3-0 Athletic Bilbao.

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