Julen Lopetegui will be without just one first-team player when Real Madrid pay a visit to San Mames to take on Athletic Bilbao on Saturday night.
Real Madrid will be aiming to continue building on their perfect start to the season, when they travel to San Mames to face off against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday. Heading into the tie, Julen Lopetegui should be relieved and buoyed by the fact that there have been no casualties in his squad following the dreaded international break.
The Real Madrid boss is without just one first-team player ahead of the clash against Athletic Bilbao, with Jesus Vallejo working his way back from a thigh injury. But, with more than enough cover at his disposal among centre-backs, Lopetegui will unlikely be a worried man.
The goalkeeping conundrum though, is one that the manager will grapple with once again, following Thibaut Courtois’s debut in Real Madrid’s last league game. On Saturday, however, Keylor Navas could get the nod to start between the sticks, with Courtois being reserved for the midweek Champions League tie against AS Roma.
Ahead of Navas in the backline, the familiar faces should be named in the starting lineup, with Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos lining up at the heart of the Real Madrid defence, while Marcelo and Dani Carvajal should be the full-backs.
In midfield, there have been suggestions that Casemiro could be named on the bench, considering he has not trained a lot after returning late from international duty. In his stead, Isco could return to the lineup against Bilbao, starting in the no. 10 role, with Luka Modric and Toni Kroos starting in the pivot.
The attacking trident though, are automatic selections, with Marco Asensio, Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale starting the season strongly. And, Loptetegui talked about each of the players in his pre-match press conference, with special praise reserved for the trio.
“I’m not surprised, he [Benzema] is a great footballer who is in his peak and at a good age and conditions. We want him to continue doing what he’s doing or even better. The players are the ones who play and overcome the difficulties we face.”
“Bale has returned in great shape from the Wales matches. He played the last game on Sunday and had time to recover. I don’t like awards very much, but if there has to be an award, better that it’s for my players. Marco has played a lot of minutes with us, both on the right and on the left. He’s got a lot of mobility and a great shot. That’s one of his big strengths.”
Real Madrid know Athletic Bilbao will be a tough test and perhaps the first real one this season for Julen Lopetegui.