Previewing Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: La Liga Matchday 33
With just 6 games remaining this season Athletic are very much in the race for Europe. The Lions currently have hold of 7th place in the La Liga table, which should be enough to qualify for the Europa League, but they must continue to add points. Sunday presents a massive test for the Zurigorri as they will travel to take on Real Madrid where they must secure a positive result.
Athletic and Real Madrid are both founding members of La Liga and have a rich history. They have met 179 times with Athletic winning only 52 fixtures. Interestingly, the last three matches have all ended in draws with Athletic’s last loss coming back in March of 2017. On the other hand, the Basques haven’t won at the Santiago Bernabéu in 14 years. That last victory came back in February of 2005 and Athletic are ready to put an end to that streak.
Real Madrid come into Sunday’s match in an interesting situation. Los Blancos have been eliminated from the Champions League and Copa del Rey while also being out of the race for the La Liga title. They essentially have nothing to play for anymore and a few players have admitted that it’s difficult to get motivated for matches. Madrid may have won their last three games at home, but they are surrendering plenty of goals suffered a disappointing 1-1 draw against Leganés last weekend.
Captain Sergio Ramos is already ruled out for the match due to injury and Alvaro Odriozola recently broke his collarbone. Toni Kroos is also doubtful which leaves Zinedine Zidane in a difficult situation. Regardless, Real Madrid will still field a very strong lineup at home and will make things extremely difficult for their visitors.
Athletic are in terrific form at the moment. The Basques have been one of the top teams in La Liga since Gaizka Garitano took over as manager and the results prove it. Athletic have won four of their last five games and are coming off of a dramatic 3-2 victory over Rayo Vallecano at San Mamés. After climbing from the relegation zone to 7th place this team has proven that they can compete at the highest level. Iñaki Williams has been the star as of late, scoring five goals in the past five games.
Zidane isn’t the only one who will have to navigate injuries. Gaizka Garitano will be without Ander Capa, Ibai Gómez, Dani García, and Oscar De Marcos. Mikel San José is expected to start in place of García, but choosing the best option at right-back isn’t quite so easy. Both Yeray and Iñigo Lekue worked there during the week and signs point to Yeray being the choice. Iker Muniain could also start on the right wing for the second straight match, though there are other options.
For Athletic to get a positive result they must make Real Madrid uncomfortable. Over the last few weeks Madrid have conceded several goals and have found it difficult to keep opponents from creating chances. Athletic must make the most of their opportunities while also continuing to be the organized defensive unit they have been to shut down the Madrid attack. Expect the Basques to press every chance they get, though they can’t afford to be caught out of position. Based on the form from both teams Athletic can absolutely surprise the Bernabéu but it’s going to be a battle on Sunday.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Iago Herrerín, Yeray, Unai Nuñez, Iñigo Martinez, Yuri Berchiche, Mikel San José, Beñat, Iker Muniain, Raúl García, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams