A place in the finals of the Supercopa de Espana will be on the line when Real Madrid take on Athletic Bilbao at La Rosaleda Stadium on Thursday night.

Real Madrid will be aiming to return to winning ways and book a place in the Supercopa de Espana finals when they lock horns with Athletic Bilbao at La Rosaleda this midweek.

Real Madrid have gone through a bit of an inconsistent run over the past week or so, failing to win two of their last four matches in La Liga. Their most recent fixture against Osasuna ended in a frustrating goalless draw and manager Zinedine Zidane will be hoping to get his troops back on track and seal qualification to the weekend’s finals.

Athletic Bilbao are starting a new era under new manager Marcelino, who replaced Gaizka Garitano last week. His first match in charge was an entertaining affair which ended with the Basque outfit losing 3-2 to Barcelona. The former Valencia and Villarreal boss will be aiming for a different outcome when his team take on Real Madrid n Thursday.

The two teams have already clashed against each other this term in La Liga, with Real Madrid coming out 3-1 victors courtesy goals from Toni Kroos and Karim Benzema. Ahead of their latest meeting on Thursday, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.

Team News & Tactics

Real Madrid

Dani Carvajal will be unavailable for Real Madrid. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Dani Carvajal will be unavailable for Real Madrid. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Dani Carvajal, who missed the weekend game against Osasuna due to suspension, will be unavailable again after picking up an injury. In addition, Luka Jovic, who is being linked with a loan exit, will also miss out with a muscular problem. Rodrygo will also be not available at Zinedine Zidane’s disposal at La Rosaleda.

There are no major alterations expected to be made on Thursday, with Real Madrid lining up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

With Carvajal unavailable, Lucas Vazquez should start at right-back while Ferland Mendy gets the nod on the left, with the duo providing constant forward outlets on their respective flanks. Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos ought to be the two centre-backs for the Merengues.

Casemiro is a certainty to feature at the base of the three-man midfield, tasked with sweeping up any threat Athletic pose before it reaches the defence. Luka Modric and Toni Kroos will occupy the remaining two spots in the middle of the park. The former will look to drive the team forward when on the ball while the latter will look to dictate the tempo of the game with his range of distribution.

With Vazquez moving to the right-back slot Marco Asensio ought to start on the right-wing while Eden Hazard should get the nod on the left flank. Spearheading the attack for Real Madrid will undoubtedly be star striker Karim Benzema.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Hazard

Athletic Bilbao

Athletic Bilbao will head into the Supercopa semi-finals without the services of Unai Lopez, Peru Nolaskoain and Yuri Berchiche, all of whom have been omitted from the 24-man squad for the game. Marcelino is unlikely to make many changes to the side that took on Barcelona in the last game with Los Leones likely to line up in a 4-4-2 formation again.

Unai Simon ought to be the man guarding the goal for Athletic, with Unai Nunez and Inigo Martinez shielding him from the centre-back slots. Ander Capa should hold on to his place at right-back, but Mikel Balenziaga is expected to replace Berchiche on the left. The duo will look to stay compact and tight at the back, restricting spaces for the Real Madrid wingers to work with.

The four-man midfield unit of Oscar De Marcos, Mikel Vesga, Unai Vencedor and captain Iker Muniain will form the second line of press for Athletic Bilbao and will play a crucial role in curbing Real Madrid’s creative influence. The wide midfielders in De Marcos and Muniain will also hold the key with their attacking contributions.

Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia will be the forwards upfront, although the manager also has the option of going in with Asier Villalibre.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Simon; Capa, Nunez, Martinez, Balenziaga; De Marcos, Vesga, Vencedor, Muniain; Williams, Garcia

Key Stats

  • Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao have clashed against each other on 234 occasions. Los Blancos have picked up 116 wins, while Los Leones have won 74 (D44). However, this will be their first-ever meeting in the Spanish Super Cup.
  • Athletic Bilbao have won just two of their last nine matches. They have conceded 13 goals during this run, while managing only two clean sheets.
  • Since a 1-0 loss in March 2015, Real Madrid are unbeaten in their last eleven meetings against Athletic Bilbao across all competitions (W7 D4).
  • Real Madrid have won the Supercopa de Espana on eleven occasions previously – only Barcelona (13) have won more. Athletic Bilbao, on the other hand, have lifted the trophy twice.
  • Sergio Ramos has made 14 appearances in the Supercopa de Espana, more than any other Real Madrid player. He has lifted the trophy on four occasions so far.

Player to Watch

Karim Benzema

Embed from Getty Images

Having made a blazing start to the season, the 32-year-old Frenchman has fizzled out somewhat over the past few games. Benzema has failed to score or assist a goal in his last three league appearances and Real Madrid have failed to win two of those. So, it is imperative that the Frenchman is firing on all cylinders when the two teams take the field at La Rosaleda.

It bodes well for Zinedine Zidane that his ace striker has an impressive record against Los Leones, having scored 13 goals and set up 6 more in 19 matches, with two of his goals coming in the ongoing campaign. For Real Madrid to go through to the finals, they will need Benzema to step up and deliver on Thursday night.

Prediction

Real Madrid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid have dropped points in two of their last four league games. However, the Merengues have not lost a single match in their last nine and will derive confidence from the fact that they have already beaten their opponents once this term.

Athletic Bilbao are still getting used to their new manager and his methods but showed against Barcelona that they will not make it easy by any means. However, given their run of results and the poor record against Real Madrid, The Hard Tackle is predicting Zinedine Zidane & co. to pick up a hard-fought win and qualify for the finals of the Supercopa de Espana.

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