Spanish giants Real Madrid will host sixth placed Athletic Bilbao at the Santiago Bernabeu in gameweek 24 of the 2015-16 La Liga season.
Real Madrid have won all of their home matches since Zinedine Zidane was appointed as the manager of the football club following the unceremonious sacking of former boss Rafa Benitez. After taking over as the manager in early January, Zidane has guided the Los Merengues to three successive thumping home wins against Deportivo La Coruna, Sporting Gijon and Espanyol.
However, Zidane and his Real Madrid troops will find it difficult to replicate their stupendous displays at home against Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Bilbao side, who are challenging for a place in next year’s Champions League.
Left back Marcelo suffered a shoulder injury last week against Granada and is a major doubt to start against the Basques. Nacho is expected to fill in for the Brazilian at left back. Pepe (foot) and Gareth Bale (Calf) are long term injury absentees and will be unavailable for the clash on Saturday. Bale’s injury means that both Isco and James Rodriguez are likely to start as part of Zidane’s attacking quartet which also includes Ronaldo and Benzema.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Navas; Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Nacho; Modric, Kroos; Isco, Rodriguez, Ronaldo; Benzema.
Having lost their last 9 matches at the Santiago Bernabeu, Athletic Bilbao face the ominous task of upsetting Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid side. The Basques will have to cope with the absences of Markel Susaeta (illness), Ibai Gomez (thigh), Inaki Williams and Mikel San Jose (both suspended) against Madrid. Iker Muniain, who made his long awaited return from an anterior cruciate ligament injury last month, is expected to start for Bilbao.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Iraizoz; De Marcos, Boveda, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Benat; Lekue, Eraso, Muniain; Aduriz
- Real Madrid have lost just one of their last 12 league games against Athletic (W10 D1), while that only loss came away from home.
- At the Bernabeu, the Whites have won 10 successive games against Athletic in La Liga, despite keeping just two clean sheets in the process.
- Among the players with at least 10 goals scored in La Liga this season, Cristiano Ronaldo has the lowest shot conversion rate (15.83%).
- Should Karim Benzema score against Athletic, he would have a new best scoring run in La Liga (8 goals). While if he scores a brace, he would equal his best goal-scoring record in a single season for Real Madrid (21, he has netted 19 so far).
- The Basque side have won four of their last eight away games in La Liga (L4).
- Ernesto Valverde has won five out of his 15 games as a manager against Real Madrid in La Liga (D1 L9), while four of them have come during his time with Athletic.
- Gorka Iraizoz is one of the three goalkeepers to have saved a penalty taken by Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga (Willy Caballero and Diego Alves, the other two). (Source: footyroom)
Real Madrid 3-1 Athletic Bilbao
Athletic Bilbao have lost their last 9 meetings with Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu and Saturday’s clash is not expected to be different. The Los Blancos have developed a tremendous appetite for goals on their home turf under Zinedine Zidane and will be looking to extend their winning run to four. Athletic Bilbao on the other hand will be missing key players such as Susaeta, Ibai Gomez, San Jose and Inaki Williams missing through suspension and injuries. A comfortable home win for the Madrid is the likely outcome of this match.
Betting Odds (Paddy Power)
Juventus – 1/5
Draw – 9/2
Napoli – 10/1