Athletic Bilbao will be desperate to arrest their awful record at the Santiago Bernabeu when they take on La Liga heavyweights Real Madrid on Saturday.
Madrid come into the game four points adrift of leaders Barcelona, having played a game more, while Athletic occupy sixth after taking seven points from their last three outings.
And Ernesto Valverde’s men will hope their recent good run provides them with the foundation to turn around their abysmal recent results at the Bernabeu.
Athletic have lost all of their last 11 visits in all competitions, conceding a combined 27 goals in the six most recent fixtures.
The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema – who between them netted all of the goals in Madrid’s 5-0 win at the Bernabeu last season – will be looking to pile further misery on Athletic, who will be without key defensive midfielder Mikel San Jose through suspension.
Inaki Williams is also banned after his sending off in last weekend’s 0-0 draw with Villarreal, but Valverde can at least count on the presence of top-scorer Aritz Aduriz, who has 13 goals this season and celebrates his 35th birthday on Thursday.
“The case of Aduriz is special,” Valverde said in a media conference. “Everything lies in his dedication and professionalism, and the confidence you have. You know he will always be there to make a goal.”
On Athletic’s record at Madrid, Valverde said: “Breaking a statistic always motivates us, our intention is to reverse that.
“The statistics speak of history, but that does not tell you what will happen. We are not favourites in Saturday’s game, but that means nothing.
“We have the experience of last year when we were losing 1-0 in the first minute and that cost us a lot.”
Madrid have taken 13 points from Zinedine Zidane’s five Liga games in charge, keeping them in touch with fierce rivals Barca.
They were unconvincing against Granada on Sunday, and were grateful for Luka Modric’s stunning effort to secure all three points in a 2-1 success over the strugglers.
With Atletico Madrid and Barca not in action until Sunday against Getafe and Celta Vigo respectively, victory for Zidane’s men will see them leapfrog their city rivals and apply a degree of pressure onto Luis Enrique’s side, who have not lost in a club-record 29 matches.
Madrid must continue to contend without Gareth Bale (calf) and Pepe (knock) while Marcelo’s dislocated shoulder means Danilo could earn a start at left-back, providing he can overcome his own ankle injury.
Key Opta stats:
– Real Madrid have won six home games in a row in La Liga, with an average of 5.5 goals scored.
– Among the players with at least 10 goals scored in La Liga this season, Cristiano Ronaldo has the lowest shot conversion rate (15.83 per cent).
– Gorka Iraizoz is one of the three goalkeepers to have saved a penalty taken by Ronaldo in La Liga (Willy Caballero and Diego Alves, the other two).
– Should Karim Benzema score against Athletic Bilbao, he would have a new best scoring run in La Liga (eight goals).
– If he scores a brace, he would equal his best goal-scoring record in a single season for Madrid (21, he has netted 19 so far).
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