Winless in last five La Liga matches, Athletic Bilbao have a mountain to climb this weekend in effort to get back to winning ways and out of the relegation scrap. It’s Real Madrid who are coming to town, with problems of their own and with a win on their mind.
Inconsistency the Key
The half-point of the current season is just around the corner and it’s been full three months since Athletic Bilbao last notched back-to-back wins in the league.
With Ernesto Valverde leaving the club after four years this summer to take over at Barcelona, the Basque side went for Jose Angel Ziganda who hasn’t exactly made the introduction he was expected to make at Athletic Bilbao. Former striker who spent seven years playing for Bilbao, Cuco Ziganda has led his club to only three wins in La Liga after 13 rounds. Sitting in 16th place in the standings, Los Leones are six points above the relegation zone and will only have desperate Malaga, Las Palmas and Alaves to thank for still keeping their heads above water. Bilbao’s European form has been a slight contrast to domestic exploits as Ziganda’s side are sitting second in Europa League Group J with a fine chance of going through to the knockouts. It will count for nothing if they fail to get back on track in La Liga, however, and Ziganda is well aware of the pressure ahead of the big match this weekend.
Athletic Bilbao defender Yeray Alvarez has been given the ‘all-clear’ following chemotherapy treatment for testicular cancer but he is still way off from getting back to the squad.
Star player Iker Muniain is out with a knee injury, whereas there is a question mark over the availability of midfielders Iker Undabarrena and Benat.
Reigning European and Spanish champions are not their usual selves this season and there’s no denying it.
Having lost to Girona much to everyone’s surprise in La Liga earlier in October, Zidane’s men were given a beating by a Premier League side Tottenham in the middle of Madrid which put plenty of pressure on the French coach and his team. Los Blancos did well to bounce back from the slump with three victories over las Palmas, APOEL and Malaga, but stalemates in the Madrid derby and against Fuenlabrada most recently have once again sent the alarm bells ringing. A 2-2 draw was enough to see Real Madrid go through in the Copa del Rey but it’s a result not a single fan of this glorious club will be proud of. Level on points with Atletico Madrid in fourth place in the La Liga standings, Real Madrid face a must-win challenge at San Mames Stadium. Zidane is expected to reintroduce his biggest stars hoping that out-of-form Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema would step up to the plate and deliver when it’s most needed.
Masked avenger Sergio Ramos is expected to miss the Saturday’s clash through a face injury, whereas Marco Asensio is out with a hip problem.
Welsh wizard Gareth Bale felt a discomfort during the Tuesday’s meeting with Fuenlabrada – where he made a return to pitch after two months – and will not be featuring against Athletic Bilbao.
Knowing that Real Madrid won their last four matches against Athletic Bilbao it’s pretty hard to look past Los Blancos in terms of the final result. Zinedine Zidane’s men are firm favourites to beat the out-of-form Basque side and there could be some great value in betting on them after all.
Top pick: Both teams to score – yes 1.70 (7/10) @Sportingbet
Alternative pick 1: Real Madrid/Real Madrid 2.20 (6/5) @Ladbrokes
Alternative pick 2: Cristiano Ronaldo to score anytime 1.68 (13/19) @Unibet