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ATHLETIC BILBAO

Sunday, October 5, 20:00 CET

Santiago Bernabeu

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Real Madrid fans will be hoping for a comfortable win on Sunday when Los Blancos host struggling Athletic Bilbao at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu.

Real Madrid striker Cristiano Ronaldo suffered the injury in their Champions League victory at Ludogorets following a hefty challenge from Anicet Abel and fans are sweating on the fitness of the Portuguese international ahead of Sunday’s La Liga clash with Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu. Ronaldo has been training alone since last two days as he struggles with an Achilles problem.

Athletic Bilbao boss Ernesto Velverde will be under a tremendous pressure to perform well to save his job on Sunday as the Basque outfit has made a disastrous start to their season.

Team News and Tactical Brief

Real Madrid

Real Madrid made unconvincing start to their season when they failed to win against Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid but the team looks settled now.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti struggled to find the right balance in the early parts of the season but it now appears that the trio of James Rodriguez, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric has formed a greater understanding between themselves.

The Los Blancos are enjoying a good run of form as they have won 5 games in a row and coach Ancelotti was optimistic about Sunday’s game in his pre-match press conference.

Ancelotti said: “We’re on a good run of results and form, though we have some things to fix; we need to be more compact in defence. Our effectiveness in attack is good. We had more problems at this stage last year; we didn’t have a clear style of play, we lacked balance and we were struggling to score goals”, he stated.

Meanwhile, despite of their recent success, the defence of Real Madrid has looked vulnerable on set pieces and Ancelotti says that he is working on a solution to avoid such mistakes. He said: “Obviously we’re concerned about [the team’s vulnerability at] corners and we’re working to address it. We mustn’t be too afraid about it, though. We’re not the only team that concede from set-pieces; Barcelona did so on Wednesday. We’re not happy and we’re trying to put it right, but these things happen”.

Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti started the game against Ludogorets with different looking midfield as Isco and Asier Illaramendi got picked ahead of Kroos and Modric but both are expected to start the game against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

On the injury front, star striker Cristiano Ronaldo is still recovering from his injury but he is expected to recover ahead of Sunday’s game. But Ancelotti will have to start the game with Marcelo as full-back Fabio Coentrao is out. Forward Jese Rodriguez (both knee) and midfielder Sami Khedira (thigh) the other casualties.

But with or without Ronaldo, Real Madrid will be confident of winning all three points against Athletic Bilbao as they have beaten the Basque’s on past 9 occasions at Santiago Bernabeu.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Casillas; Arbeloa, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo; Modric, Kroos, James; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo

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Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao are struggling in La Liga at the moment and for Ernesto Velverde, the trip to the Bernabeu could hardly come at a worse time.

Athletic Bilbao enjoyed an excellent campaign last term, which saw them finish fourth in La Liga. They also made an encouraging start to this season as they beat Napoli to qualify for the Champions League but it now appears that the Basque’s are struggling to compete in two very demanding competitions at one time.

Midfielder Ander Herrera left for Manchester United during the summer transfer window and because of their policy of hiring only Basque players, coach Velverde failed to sign the quality successor for Spain international.

Atheltic Bilbao have won only one game in La Liga this season and the job of Velverde will come under threat if he fails to win at Santiaho Bernabeu.

Ernesto Velverde is well aware that Real Madrid game is extremely tough and he said that he is looking forward to a very difficult tie against the Los Blancos. Velverde said: “Madrid is our next game and it’s a difficult opportunity. It’s an opportunity for a lot of things – to try to win but also find the good feelings.

“I’d prefer three points more than one point or competing well. If they beat us, we have to fight. When you play Madrid or Barcelona the worst thing you can do is give up chances. This year Barca beat us but we were competitive.

“Last year I felt Madrid were too comfortable in beating us. But we don’t want to look good, we want the points. That’s first.”

The good news for Athletic Bilbao is attacking midfielder Isaac Aketxe is their only reported injury for the Sunday’s clash – the 25-year-old is suffering with a toe problem.

Probable Lineup (4-5-1): Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Rico, Benat, Munian, De Marcos; Aduriz

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Player to Watch Out For

Karim Benzema (Real Madrid)

Carlo Ancelotti started the midweek Champions League game with Chicharito as a lone striker, indicating that the place of Benzema in starting XI is no longer guaranteed. But the Mexican failed to impress the coach and Benzema will be hoping for a good game against weak looking defence of Athletic Bilbao.

Score Prediction

Real Madrid 3-1 Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid are looking in a great shape at the moment and struggling Athletic Bilbao are not expected to pose a serious challenge to Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

Blast From the Past

http://youtu.be/UKofV-oHvLM