Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 3/4
Desperate to try and find a La Liga boost on Sunday night, Real Madrid will make the trip to San Mames when they meet Athletic Bilbao.
Starting with the hosts, eventually hanging onto a gritty 1-0 win at home against Espanyol earlier in the week while on Cope del Rey duties, Athletic Bilbao certainly has the feel of a side seeking some much-needed stability. Last seen in La Liga action putting in a downbeat display as they were blown away thanks to a 3-1 defeat against Real Sociedad, Ernesto Valverde’s men are yet to pick up a top-flight victory since returning from the World Cup break. Marking their return from the festive interval with back-to-back 0-0 stalemates against Real Betis and Osasuna, the Lions have come tumbling out of the European spots. Knowing that they could face a real uphill struggle in 2023 if they’re to clinch a top-six return, the former Barcelona boss will know that his side should face another tough test here. Likewise, it is also worth noting that Bilbao have won just a pair of their last 10 La Liga appearances – a run that stems back to September 30th.
Shown a second-half red card in last weekend’s 3-1 loss away at Real Sociedad, Bilbao will be without 27-year-old Yeray Alvarez on Sunday night. Valverde’s side are also sweating over the fitness of central defender Inigo Martinez.
Handed a rest for their 1-0 win against Espanyol in midweek, the likes of Inaki Williams and Unai Simon are expected to make a full return here.
As for the visitors, coming under real scrutiny for their 3-1 Super Cup defeat against Barcelona last weekend, Real Madrid would have certainly been glad to have found an immediate response outside of the capital. Eventually claiming an action-packed 3-2 victory against Villarreal while on Cope del Rey duties, Carlo Ancelotti’s men are still struggling to find top gear. Last seen in top-flight action getting hit with a 2-1 loss against the Yellow Submarine on January 7th, the former AC Milan boss has seen his side win just a pair of their last five La Liga appearances. Sat three points adrift of their bitter rivals and finding a route back to the top of the table, Los Blancos will know that they can not afford many more slip-ups. Facing what could be a must-win showdown when they travel to San Mames on Sunday night, Ancelotti will have a real headache over his side’s extended defensive struggles. It should be noted, the defending champions have recorded just a pair of clean sheets from their last 12 straight matchups across all formats.
Real Madrid have already confirmed that they will be without the trio of David Alaba, Aurelien Tchouameni and Dani Carvajal on Sunday night. French international Eduardo Camavinga will be hoping to retain his spot in Ancelotti’s midfield.
Already mustering five domestic strikes since returning from the World Cup break, attacking talisman Karim Benzema will spearhead Madrid’s charge here.
Key Factors to Consider
- When Sunday’s opponents last met at San Mames 11 months ago, Athletic Bilbao picked up a 1-0 victory while on Copa del Rey duties.
- However, the Lions have won just a pair of their last 10 La Liga appearances – a run that stems back to September 30th.
- Likewise, Real Madrid have won just two of their previous five La Liga contests on either side of the World Cup break.
- Los Blancos have also recorded just a pair of clean sheets from any of their previous 12 matchups across all formats.
- Sunday’s guests have seen each of their last four domestic contests finish with both teams finding the net.
Claiming what was a much-needed Copa del Rey boost earlier in the week thanks to an action-packed 3-2 victory away at Villarreal, Real Madrid will be desperate to find some La Liga stability. However, while Athletic Bilbao might be showing their own issues on either side of the World Cup break, Sunday’s hosts should be confident of testing a leaky Los Blancos defence. On what has been an extended headache for Ancelotti, the defending champions have recorded just a pair of clean sheets from any of their previous 12 straight appearances. Likewise, with Madrid seeing each of their last four consecutive domestic battles finish with both teams finding the net, we’re backing a similar outcome at San Mames.
Verdict: Both teams to score
Best Odds: 3/4
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