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Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao

November 18, 2012 2:30 AM IST

Estadio Santiago Bernabéu — Madrid

Madrid will face Bilbao in the La Liga in what promises to be an exciting match. Mourinho’s men are on a four-match winning streak and are a formidable opposition at home, as would be expected of any of Jose’s teams. Having won six of their last seven La Liga matches you would expect Madrid to put behind their indifferent start to the season to keep the pressure up on the Catalan Boys. As it stands, Madrid are eight points behind the pace setters, Barcelona. On the other hand, Bilbao have won only one of their last 13 away matches in all competitions. They currently languish in 12th position in the Liga, nine points behind Madrid and a massive 17 points off the leaders.

Real Madrid

Madrid seem to have put behind them their nightmare start to their season, by their own standards one may add. They won their last match against a bruising Levante 2-1. Their current Captain Galactico, Ronaldo suffered a bad cut just above his eye, but still managed to score in that match. However, they had to rely on sub Morata to win them the maximum points. Yet, they still find themselves eight points behind their perennial rivals – Barca.

On the injury front, Ronaldo and Ozil have recovered from the knocks they had suffered against Levante. Ronaldo had overtaken Butragueno’s  league scoring record for Madrid in the last match. He is currently on 124 goals in the Liga, behind Raul’s all time record of 228 goals. Khedira and Benzema are also back in training. Marcelo and Higuain remain sidelined though. A win would be vital in Madrids perspective in front of their Boisterous home crowd.

 Athletic Bilbao

Bilbao won their last match, 2-1, versus Sevilla at home. But their league form in general and away form in particular hasn’t been up to the standards. In fact, the last time they won at the Bernabeu was way back in February 2005. They would be hoping to set the record straight this time, but one could argue that they miss their midfield dynamo, Martinez, who was sold to Bayern this summer. All eyes would be on Muniain, dubbed by many as the new Spanish Messi.

On the injury front, their much in-demand striker, Llorente, still remains sidelined. Athletic will also be without the services of midfield pair Ander Herrera and Oscar de Marcos, both of whom are suspended. Inigo Perez and Borja Ekiza are also major doubts with ankle problems, while Fernando Amorebieta could miss out after picking up a knock while on international duty with Venezuela. The debate on meaningless international friendlies will rage on, just ask Monsieur Wenger.

 Probable Starting Lineups

Real Madrid –

                   Casillas
Arbeloa, Pepe, Ramos, Coentrao
           Khedira, Alonso
Di Maria,     Ozil,      Ronaldo
               Benzema

 

Athletic Bilbao –

                          Iraizoz
Iraola, San Jose, Amorebieta, Aurtenetxe
             Gurpegui, Iturraspe
Susaeta,         Muniain,      Gomez
                        Aduriz

 

Last 5 matches

Real Madrid

12-Nov-2012      Levante 1 – Real Madrid 2                             LIGA

07-Nov-2012      Real Madrid 2 – Borussia Dortmund 2      UCL

04-Nov-2012      Real Madrid 4 – Zaragoza 0                           LIGA

01-Nov-2012      Alcoyano 1 – Real Madrid 4                           ESPC

29-Oct-2012        Mallorca 0 – Real Madrid 5                            LIGA

Athletic Bilbao

11-Nov-2012      Athletic Bilbao 2 – Sevilla 1                            LIGA

09-Nov-2012      Athletic Bilbao 2 – O. Lyon 3                         EL

05-Nov-2012      Ciudad de Murcia 1 – Athletic Bilbao 2     LIGA

01-Nov-2012      Eibar 0 – Athletic Bilbao 0                               ESPC

28-Oct-2012        Athletic Bilbao 1 – Getafe 2                          LIGA

Interesting Facts

- Real Madrid have won six of their last seven matches in La Liga.

- With just eight goals conceded, the Castilian giants have the tightest defence in the Primera Division this campaign.

- Athletic Bilbao have won just one of their last 13 away matches in all competitions (W1, D3, L9).

- The Basque outfit have lost their last five Liga encounters with Real Madrid.

Key Battle

Ronaldo is back after his eye injury. The way Bilbao handle him will be the key for them against Madrid. Iraola has his task cut out for the evening. But it won’t just be the full backs who will face the Portuguese goal machine, as he loves to cut in whenever he gets a chance. You could count on him to score almost every match, and the only motivation he needs is to catch up with Messi’s goal tally.

Prediction

Considering the form Real are in and the fact that they are playing at home, they would be massive favourites to win this match. Bilbao aren’t in the form that saw them defeat Manchester United last season and will have a torrid evening ahead of them, with all the noise expected to come from the Real fans. Real should cruise to victory here.

Real Madrid 2 – 0 Athletic Bilbao

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