Athletic Club host reigning La Liga champions Real Madrid in the Spanish top flight on Sunday night.
Both clubs made commanding starts to the season but come into the weekend’s showpiece event out of sorts. Athletic were third in October but a sequence of two wins from their last ten league games (D4 L4) has seen Ernesto Valverde’s side slip outside the top seven.
Real Madrid remain firmly ensconced in the title race but lost to their Catalan rivals Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup last weekend. The doubts that defeat churned up were stoked further as Madrid fell 2-0 behind in Thursday’s cup tie against Villarreal. Carlo Ancelotti’s side rallied to produce a typical comeback but lost to the same team in their most recent league fixture.
Here’s everything you need to know about these two teams’ attempts to get back on track.
Athletic Club vs Real Madrid H2H Results (Last Five Games)
Current Form (Last Five Games)
Athletic Club team news
Valverde won’t be able to call upon Yeray Alvarez after the centre-back received a red card in the Basque derby against Real Sociedad last weekend. The club have already had one appeal against the suspension turned down and Alvarez is expected to join Inigo Martinez (physical discomfort) on the sidelines this weekend.
Athletic Club Starting 11 (4-2-3-1): Simon; De Marcos, Paredes, Vivian, Berchiche; Vesga, Garcia; I Williams, Sancet, N Williams; Guruzeta.
Bench: Agirrezabala, Capa, Lekue, Herrera, Vencedor, Zarraga, Muniain, Berenguer, Morcillo.
Real Madrid team news
Neither Aurelien Tchouameni nor David Alaba were involved in Real Madrid’s ultimately unsuccessful exploits in the Supercopa as they nursed a pair of leg injuries. Lucas Vazquez sprained his ankle out in Saudi Arabia, consigning the full back to a spot in the treatment room until March.
Real Madrid Starting 11 (4-3-3): Courtois; Carvajal, Militao, Rudiger, Mendy; Modric, Camavinga, Ceballos; Valverde, Benzema, Vinicius.
Bench: Lunin, Lopez, Odriozola, Fernandez, Kroos, Hazard, Rodrygo, Asensio, Diaz.
This is a meeting between two sides equipped to spring forward on the break. At their best this season, Athletic have hounded after the ball at the top of the pitch with an infectious zeal. Valverde’s side has won possession in the final third more often than any other club in La Liga (per Opta).
Madrid rarely come up against opposition willing to leave room behind their backline but have still launched a league-high 45 direct attacks this term. If they can squeeze through the press, Ancelotti’s side could hurt their hosts in transition.
However, the reigning champions are hardly purring at this point in time and even though they carry the tag of favourites, the Lions could cause Los Blancos more than a few problems.
Prediction: Athletic Club 2-3 Real Madrid