Monday, April 22, 2024

Prediction: Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao

Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 8/15

Bookmaker: 888sport

The standout fixture of game week 30 in the 2023/24 La Liga season is set to unfold at the Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday evening, as Real Madrid play host to Athletic Bilbao in what promises to be an enthralling encounter.

Real Madrid currently lead the league table, holding an eight-point advantage over second-placed Barcelona. Meanwhile, Bilbao occupy the fourth position, holding a one-point lead over fifth-placed Atletico Madrid in the race for Champions League qualification.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid has been the dominant force in the Spanish top flight this season, with an impressive record of 22 wins, six draws, and one defeat from their 29 matches, accumulating 72 points and leading the table quite comfortably.

With an eight-point advantage over second-placed Barcelona and a ten-point lead over third-placed Girona with nine games remaining, Real Madrid appear poised to maintain their grip on the top spot to the end. However, their focus is not solely on domestic success, as they are also eyeing a strong performance in the Champions League.

Under the guidance of manager Carlo Ancelotti, Real Madrid are set to face trophy holders Manchester City in the quarterfinals of the UEFA’s elite club competition, with the first leg scheduled to take place at in Madrid on April 9th.

Heading into this fixture, Real are coming off successive league wins over Celta Vigo and Osasuna, where they scored a total of eight goals. Impressively, they have been dominant at the Bernabeu in La Liga, collecting 38 points from 14 matches, with 12 wins to their name.

Although they hold a comfortable lead, Los Blancos remain focused on maintaining their form as they approach key fixtures, including a highly anticipated clash with arch-rivals Barcelona on April 21, likely to have significant implications in the title race.

Team News

Real will face Bilbao without the services of key forward Vinicius Junior, who is suspended due to a milestone booking he received against Osasuna before the international break.

Additionally, Thibaut Courtois and David Alaba will be absent due to knee injuries. However, there is optimism that Eder Militao could make a return to the squad after recovering from an ACL problem sustained against this same opponent back in August.

Eduardo Camavinga is a major doubt due to an ankle injury picked up while representing France, but Dani Ceballos has resumed training following a calf issue. Jude Bellingham and Federico Valverde are expected to start despite missing training on Thursday.

In Vinicius’s absence, Brahim Diaz is likely to feature alongside Rodrygo in the final third, while Nacho is expected to return in the heart of the defence.

Athletic Bilbao

Bilbao are coming off a 2-0 victory over Alaves before the international break, with Gorka Guruzeta scoring both goals for the Basque side. Currently occupying a Champions League spot in La Liga, Ernesto Valverde’s team has recorded 16 wins, 8 draws, and 5 losses in 29 league games, totaling 56 points, placing them in fourth position, just one point ahead of fifth-placed Atletico Madrid.

Athletic’s strong performance this season puts them in strong contention for Champions League qualification, and they are also competing for major silverware as they prepare to face Mallorca in the Copa del Rey final next weekend.

Although Athletic have been strong away from home, collecting 20 points from 14 away matches, they have struggled against Real Madrid, not defeating them in La Liga since March 2015. Despite holding Real to a 1-1 draw in their previous encounter at Bernabeu last season, Real emerged victorious with a 2-0 win when they visited San Mames earlier in the 2023/24 La Liga campaign.

Team News

With Yuri Berchiche sidelined due to a hamstring issue, Athletic Bilbao will be without one of their key players. Aitor Paredes, Ander Herrera, and Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta are all facing late fitness tests to determine their availability for the match.

Dani Vivian, who recently made his debut for Spain during the international break, is expected to feature in the heart of the defence. In midfield, Dani Garcia is set to come into the lineup.

Up front, Gorka Guruzeta, who scored a brace in the previous match against Alaves, will lead the attacking line. Inaki Williams and Nico Williams are likely to start in the wide areas, both having performed well throughout the season.

Oihan Sancet, who was an unused substitute in the last game, is pushing for a return to the starting lineup and could feature on Sunday.

Conclusion

Bilbao are certainly capable of causing problems for Real, even at the Bernabeu, and their chances of getting something from this game would probably be very good with no Vinicius to harass their back line, but Bellingham’s availability is not to be underestimated as a notable factor.

It will probably be a tough match, with Real just edging it through sheer quality and their proven winning mentality.

Verdict: Home win

Best odds: 8/15

Bookmaker: 888sport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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