Real Madrid travel to the Basque country to take on Athletic Bilbao at St. Mames. We look at three battles that will be key in deciding the outcome of the game.
Real Madrid, as always, will have a hostile reception at San Mam s. The Madrid-based outfit, however, carry a spotless defensive record in the heart of the Basque country, having not conceded a single goal this season on their way to scoring 16.
Athletic shook the football world when they demolished FC Barcelona 5-1 over two legs in Spanish Super Copa. Surprisingly, they have not had the best of the start to the new league season, losing three of their four games and sit in a lowly 14th place. Beating Real Madrid will be a great way to get their league season underway.
Win the following three battles, and glory will be closer.
1 – Gorka Iraizoz vs Cristiano Ronaldo
If Atheltic are to have any chance of getting something out of the game, they cannot let Cristiano Ronaldo run riot. Their defence has already conceded 7 goals in 4 league games and the way they have defended in their previous games will result only in one thing – murder.
De Marcos at left-back will have the task of attempting to stop Cristiano Ronaldo. The Real Madrid superstar will be hungry to get back to scoring ways having not scored any at the weekend and rival Lionel Messi notching up two strikes.
If Ronaldo has to be stopped, Athletic Bilbao’s goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz will have to have a big role in it. Iraizoz not only needs to be on his toes, he has to be sensational tomorrow because shots will reign in from all sides, especially from Ronaldo’s.
2 – Ayemeric Laporte vs Karim Benzema
Much like most of the Athletic defence, Laporte has been poor since keeping the Blaugrana at bay in the Spanish Super Copa.
However, with Karim Benzema and co. coming to the Basque country, Laporte will have to bring out his A-game again. Laporte has been touted as the next big thing as far as defenders are considered in La Liga and what better stage to show it than against the 10-times European Champions.
Easier said than done, though. Laporte will be up against Benzema, whose confidence will be high after heading home the winner against Granada at home. Benzema has been in fine form for Real Madrid this season after missing the opening weekend of La Liga. The French star has four goals in as many games and stopping him is of utmost importance if Athletic Bilbao want to get something out of the game.
3 – Sergio Ramos/Raphael Varane vs Aduriz
Aduriz destroyed Barcelona with his finishing in the two legged Spanish Super Copa tie when he bagged four off the five goals that were scored in the tie. While Athletic may have not continues their Super Copa form in the league, 34-year-old Aduriz has had no such problem. He has already bagged 9 strikes in 6 starts this season.
Real Madrid’s defence will have their task cut out to stop the Bilbao goal-machine. Raphael Varane impressed in the Granada game in the absence of Sergio Ramos, who is all set to return for the crunch tie. This may very well mean that Pepe will sit out of the game.
Regardless of who forms the central defensive pairing, the Real Madrid centre-backs have to ensure that their lack of playing time together does not become a problem when it comes to stopping Aduriz.
If they fail to contain him and Athletic Bilbao manages to win the above two battles, Rafael Benitez and Real Madrid will have to pull off a rabbit out of the hat to get something from the Basque country back to Madrid.