Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid
Reigning La Liga holders Real Madrid take a trip to the Estadio San Mames to encounter top-four hopefuls Athletic Bilbao in a mouth-watering fixture.
Despite going winless in all three La Liga matches since the calendar year flipped to 2023 (D2, L1), Athletic Bilbao’s hopes of claiming a long-awaited top-four finish are very much alive. Only two points below fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, Ernesto Valverde’s men head into proceedings on the back of a 1-0 home win over Espanyol in midweek Copa del Rey action, registering a four consecutive home clean sheet in all competitions (W3, D1). That bodes well for Bilbao’s bid to snap a humiliating run of 14 La Liga meetings with Real Madrid without winning (D4, L10). Defensively robust, ‘Los Leones’ have kept a league second-high six clean sheets at home this season, suggesting they’ll give Madrid’s frontline a run for their money.
In the meantime, visiting Real Madrid staged an outrageous second-half comeback, turning a 2-0 halftime deficit into a 3-2 win at Villarreal in midweek Copa del Rey action. It was a confidence boost Carlo Ancelotti’s men desperately needed following a 2-1 defeat at Villarreal in their 2023 La Liga opener and an underwhelming 3-1 Supercopa de Espana heartbreak against Barcelona. ‘Los Merengues’ sit only three points adrift of their arch-rivals, but after losing twice on their last four league travels (W2), they cannot take anything for granted. However, they’ve been nothing short of impressive on their recent La Liga visits to the Basque country, racking up ten wins and one draw in their last 11 such contests.