Previewing Athletic Club vs Real Madrid: LaLiga Matchday 34
The La Liga season will be over in just a few weeks but Athletic and Real Madrid still have plenty left to play for in the remaining five games. Going into Sunday’s clash at San Mamés the Lions are chasing Europe while Madrid will look to protect a four-point lead at the top of the table. A win for either side would be a huge result.
Athletic have lost just once in their last five games against Real Madrid, but haven’t won since March of 2015. That victory came at San Mamés and Gaizka Garitano’s side hope come away with the same result tomorrow. Since the restart Athletic have been in excellent form, suffering just one loss, while Real Madrid haven’t dropped a single point in their six matches.
Garitano will have a big decision to make before kickoff. The Mister could field a strong lineup or rest key players which is what he did against Barcelona. Either would be acceptable given the team’s run of form. The only player who won’t be available is Beñat who is still recovering from a muscle injury in his hip. Garitano also hinted that Yuri Berchiche would be doubtful for the game after the left-back missed training on Thursday.
If Garitano does choose to rest some stars it’s very likely that Iker Muniain will be on the bench. The captain has been dealing with muscle discomfort over the past week and also sustained a stamp to his left ankle in the recent win over Valencia. Players such as Asier Villalibre, Mikel Vesga, Iñigo Lekue, Óscar De Marcos, and Oihan Sancet have all excelled in recent appearances and could see minutes on Sunday as starters or by coming off the bench.
On the other hand, Zinedine Zidane will have to make do without Eden Hazard and center-back Raphael Varane who was injured in Real Madrid’s win over Getafe. Eder Militao took Varane’s place on the field and will be expected to start alongside Sergio Ramos at San Mamés. Zidane has shown a willingness to throw out some surprises with his lineups of late, but there’s no doubting that the manager will field a strong eleven to try to take all three points back home.
To come away with a good result Athletic must limit Karim Benzema from creating chances or scoring them himself. The Frenchman has been one of the best players in La Liga after the stoppage and is capable of causing problems. Athletic’s exceptional defense will be put to the test, though the Basques must also take advantage of their own opportunity in front goal to make Real Madrid uncomfortable.
Sunday’s match isn’t a must-win for Athletic, but even a draw would be a great result. Even a draw would go a long way in the team’s pursuit of a top seven finish. No matter who starts for Athletic the Zurigorri have been one of the hardest teams to beat all season and will be determined to keep all three points in Bilbao.
Projected Athletic Club XI: Óscar De Marcos, Unai Núñez, Yeray, Mikel Balenziaga, Mikel Vesga, Unai López, Gaizka Larrazabal, Oihan Sancet, Iñigo Córdoba, Iñaki Williams