Athletic Bilbao-Real Madrid Preview: Mourinho's side look to continue good form
Los Merengues have won seven of their last eight fixtures in La Liga and will aim to extend that record against the depleted Basque outfit at San Mames on Sunday
By Karthick Arvinth
Athletic Bilbao boss Marcelo Bielsa will be forced to make several changes for the Primera Division clash against Real Madrid.
Defender Andoni Iraola is sidelined after suffering a hamstring injury in the defeat at Sevilla while Carlos Gurpegui, Aymeric Laporte, Oscar de Marcos and Aritz Aduriz are all suspended.
However, striker Ibai (groin) will be available along with Markel Susaeta, who returns after serving a one-match ban.
Real Madrid trio Michael Essien, Kaka and Gonzalo Higuain are carrying knocks and are unlikely to be involved at San Mames.
Coach Jose Mourinho is certain to make several changes to freshen up his team after an arduous midweek trip to Galatasaray in the Champions League.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Athletic Bilbao have lost five of their last eight matches in La Liga.
- Los Leones have lost their last six encounters with Real Madrid.
- Athletic's last home win over Real was a 1-0 success in January 2010.
- Real Madrid have won nine of their last 11 matches in all competitions.
- Jose Mourinho (pictured, right) oversaw his 121st win as Madrid coach in the 5-1 thrashing of Levante. Only Vicente del Bosque (133) and Miguel Munoz (357) have presided over more victories at the Santiago Bernabeu club.
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Top 3 Predictions
Athletic de Bilbao 1-3 Real Madrid
- 15.92 %
Athletic de Bilbao 0-3 Real Madrid
- 11.37 %
Athletic de Bilbao 1-4 Real Madrid
- 9.12 %
|La Liga (LIGA)||2 Feb 2014||Athletic de Bilbao 1 - Real Madrid 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||1 Sep 2013||Real Madrid 3 - Athletic de Bilbao 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||14 Apr 2013||Athletic de Bilbao 0 - Real Madrid 3|
|La Liga (LIGA)||17 Nov 2012||Real Madrid 5 - Athletic de Bilbao 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||2 May 2012||Athletic de Bilbao 0 - Real Madrid 3|
|Athletic de Bilbao|
|9 Mar 2014||Valencia 1 - Athletic de Bilbao 1||LIGA|
|28 Feb 2014||Athletic de Bilbao 4 - Granada 0||LIGA|
|23 Feb 2014||Betis 0 - Athletic de Bilbao 2||LIGA|
|16 Feb 2014||Athletic de Bilbao 1 - Espanyol 2||LIGA|
|10 Feb 2014||Celta 0 - Athletic de Bilbao 0||LIGA|
|6||Mikel San José Domínguez||Defender|
|13||Raúl Fernández Mateos||Goalkeeper|
|25||Diego López Rodríguez||Goalkeeper|
|22||Ángel Di María||Midfielder|
The Juventus-bound striker is likely to captain Athletic Bilbao on Sunday in the absence of Carlos Gurpegui and Andoni Iraola through suspension and injury respectively. Llorente will hope to redeem his standing with the club's supporters by performing well after a dismal season in which he has found the net just once in La Liga.
The France international has endured a disappointing season by his standards, scoring just eight goals in 23 Liga appearances. Benzema put in one of his better performances of the campaign in the reverse fixture against Athletic in November and he will look to get amongst the goals again with a huge Champions League tie against Borussia Dortmund looming.
Real will not be bothered too much even if they lose on Sunday and their focus will be firmly on arriving in peak condition for the Champions League and the Copa del Rey games. Bielsa's Athletic have waned after a stellar season last time out and could be in for a long night with nearly half their first XI ruled out of action.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed