Hello all! Sports Mole
's live La Liga coverage continues from San Mames as Athletic Bilbao
welcome Real Madrid. The hosts have seemingly turned a corner in recent weeks and now have their eye on a top-10 finish, which seemed unlikely a couple of months ago. Real Madrid, meanwhile, will be hoping to extend their lead over Barcelona to five points with victory here.
Bilbao, who held Real Madrid to a 1-1 draw in this stadium last season, were thumped 5-0 at the Bernabeu in the reverse match, but their form as a whole has improved in recent weeks. Ernesto Valverde's side lost four straight matches either side of Christmas, but have since only lost one from six to move into 10th position in the table. They will also enter this match full of confidence after booking their spot in the Copa del Rey final with a 2-0 win at Espanyol on Wednesday.
Real Madrid, meanwhile, were held to a 1-1 draw by Villarreal last weekend. They have won three of their last four matches in all competitions, however, and still sit top of the table by two points. Los Blancos also have the best away record in the league this season – winning 10 of their 13 matches.
BILBAO: Iraizoz; Iraola, Gurpegi, Etxeita, Balenziaga; Benat, Rico, De Marcos; Muniain, Aduriz, Williams
REAL: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo; Isco, Kroos, Illarra; Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the first period. It must be said that there is a stunning atmosphere inside the stadium as the home side kick things off at San Mames.
Just a quick word on the team news. Bilbao hand starts to Inaki Williams and Benat this early evening, with the former impressing in recent weeks. Real Madrid have made just one change from the team that drew with Villarreal, however, with Asier Illarramendi replacing Lucas Silva in the XI. It has been a lively start to this match, with Bilbao already looking for that long straight ball to in-form Aduriz.
Half-chance for the home side as Aduriz finds a pocket of space outside the box, but his low effort was always moving wide of the post. The atmosphere inside this stadium is just stunning.
Not too much for the Real Madrid supporters to get excited about in the opening five minutes, with Benzema caught offside following a through pass from Isco. Bilbao are on top at the moment.
Just a reminder that victory for the away side would move them five points clear at the top of La Liga. Bilbao, however, now have their sights firmly set on a top-eight finish following a strong run of form. The home side continue to make the early running as they break down the right once again.
Real Madrid really have not started in this match as Pepe is forced to concede a corner following more good work from Balenziaga. The resulting set piece is delivered towards the far post, but Casillas is on hand to claim ahead of Aduriz. Ronaldo and Bale simply have not been involved thus far here.
Aduriz flies into the back of Kroos during another feisty exchange and the referee points for a free kick, which brings a furious reaction from the home supporters. Bilbao seem to be winning everything in the middle of the park and it is safe to say that Carlo Ancelotti does not look happy at the moment.
CHANCE! First real bit of quality from Real Madrid as Illarramendi slides a super pass into Carvajal, who in turn finds Benzema inside the box, but the Frenchman's effort is blocked by Etxeita.
Etxeita is again on hand to clear a low cross from Benzema, with the away side starting to turn the screw in the final third. It is vital that Bilbao survive this spell of pressure. The resulting corner is delivered onto the head of Pepe, but his effort is just high of the crossbar. Still goalless here.
Without sounding like a broken record, there is a sensational atmosphere inside the stadium here. There always is for this fixture, but Bilbao are playing some excellent stuff at the moment. That said, Real Madrid do look the more threatening in the final third each time they break with pace.
Half-chance for the home side as De Marcos delivers a super cross towards Aduriz, who makes contact with his head, but his effort was always moving wide of the post. Still goalless here.
Rico has been sensational for Bilbao in the opening 20 minutes, with the midfielder again driving through the heart of the Real Madrid midfield, but Varane is across to clear at the vital moment.
Not too much to report in terms of clear chances here, despite the high-tempo nature of the match. Real Madrid continue to look the more dangerous, despite Bilbao's domination of the ball thus far.
Almost an opportunity for the away side as Isco attempts to slide a pass into Ronaldo, but Iraizoz is out to clear at the vital moment. Still goalless with 23 minutes on the clock at San Mames.
Aduriz shows excellent feet outside the Real Madrid box before attempting to clip a pass into Williams, but the striker is not on the same wave-length. He might fancy a shot next time.
GOAL! Bilbao 1-0 Real Madrid (Aduriz)
Stunning, stunning header from Aduriz. Bilbao open the scoring with 26 minutes on the clock as Aduriz thumps a Rico cross into the top corner. Bilbao are worth this lead, no doubt about that!
Carlo Ancelotti looks disgruntled on the sideline - his team have not played well thus far.
Bilbao goalkeeper Iraizoz makes a stunning save to deny Bale from close range, but the Welshman was ruled offside and therefore it would not have counted. Will there be a quick response here?
BOOKINGS! Kroos (Real Madrid) is booked for a poor challenge on Iraola. Meanwhile, Aduriz (Bilbao) is also carded for his reaction to the challenge. It is hotting up at San Mames!
Little under 15 minutes of the first period remaining and you just get the feeling that Real Madrid need to respond in this half of football. Bale has started to see more and more of the ball here.
Possession football from Real Madrid in the last couple of minutes, but they are struggling to create opportunities, with Bilbao working extremely hard in defensive areas. Still 1-0 Bilbao here.
Real Madrid need a little more from the likes of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema at the moment, with the visitors struggling for inspiration in the final third. Bilbao are very comfortable as it stands here.
It just is not happening for the visitors as Isco loses possession in the final third - allowing Bilbao to launch a break down the other end. Williams has been very lively for the home side this early evening, with the 20-year-old working extremely hard in all areas. Real Madrid really need to improve here.
BOOKING! Etxeita (Bilbao) is booked for a poor challenge on Ronaldo.
BOOKING! Illarramendi (Real Madrid) is booked for a lunge on Muniain.
Williams has been everywhere for Bilbao in this half. Sensational from the youngster.
Another Real Madrid attack comes to a close as Bale's low cross is blocked at the near post. Bilbao continue to work all across the pitch in the latter stages of the first period at San Mames.
Just the one minute of additional time at the end of the first period.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for the away side in the latter stages of the half as Marcelo drives to the edge of the Bilbao box before feeding Benzema, but the Frenchman decides to look for a cross and the danger is cleared. Not great from the striker and not great from Real Madrid.
HALF-TIME: Bilbao 1-0 Real Madrid
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Bilbao leading 1-0 courtesy of a super header from Aduriz after 26 minutes. Real Madrid have had bits and pieces since falling behind, but their overall work has been pretty poor. Bilbao deserve their lead at this stage of proceedings.
STATS! Real Madrid have dominated possession with 63%, but the visitors have not had a single attempt on target during a disappointing first period. Bilbao, meanwhile, have had five attempts - hitting the target just once. There have also been four bookings issued - two for each team.
BENCH WATCH! Bilbao have plenty of attacking options on their bench this evening, with the likes of Ibai Gomez, Unai Lopez, Markel Susaeta and Toquero all in reserve. Real Madrid, meanwhile, have options in the shape of Jese Rodriguez, Javier Hernandez, Sami Khedira and Lucas Silva.
Here we go then. Both sets of players join us on the pitch for the second period. Can Real Madrid turn this one around? They simply must improve. The visitors get the second 45 minutes underway here.
No changes from either side at the interval, which is not too much of a surprise. However, I suspect that alterations will occur if the score remains 1-0 for the next 20, 25 minutes at San Mames.
The next goal - if there indeed is one - could be absolutely vital here. If Real Madrid find a response in the next 10 minutes or so, then you would have to fancy them to go on and claim all the points. Bilbao put a lot into their Copa del Rey semi-final on Wednesday and their level may drop here.
CHANCE! Stunning chance for Real Madrid as Ronaldo delivers a low cross into Benzema, but somehow Balenziaga is across to make a last-ditch challenge. Sensational defending there!
CHANCE! Another wonderful opportunity for the away side as Marcelo finds Bale, who delivers a low cross towards Ronaldo, but the attacker cannot make contact. All one-way traffic!
Bilbao need to be really careful here as Real Madrid continue to make ground in the final third, with Ronaldo firing just wide from distance. I suspect that Ancelotti had some serious words at the break.
Half-chance for the home side this time as Bale's poor pass finds Aduriz, who turns outside the Real Madrid box before striking on goal, but Casillas is on hand to make a fairly comfortable save.
Bilbao have just managed to stem the flow of pressure in the last couple of minutes, but Bale and Ronaldo are now more involved for Real Madrid, which could spell danger for the hosts here.
Williams leads a fast break for the home side, with the youngster eventually driving into the Real Madrid box, but Pepe is across with his body to ease out the attacker. Still 1-0 to the hosts here.
Half-chance for the away side as Isco finds some space outside the box before driving one towards the bottom corner - Real Madrid's first attempt on target - but Iraizoz is down to make the save.
The pressure continues from Real Madrid as they force two corners in quick succession, but Bilbao survive as the clock continues to tick on in the second period. Little over 30 minutes remaining.
CHANCE! Another opportunity for Real Madrid as Benzema faces up to Iraizoz inside the Bilbao box, but the experienced goalkeeper is on hand to make a really smart stop.
Real Madrid are in complete control at the moment as they continue to turn the screw in the final third. A deep free kick from Kroos causes concern inside the Bilbao box, but Iraizoz manages to clear.
SUB! Bilbao make their first change of the match as Susaeta replaces Muniain.
Still no movement on the Real Madrid bench, which is not too much of a surprise due to their domination, but Ancelotti must have some changes in mind. The visitors still trail 1-0 here.
If this score stays the same, then victory for Barcelona tomorrow would move the Catalan outfit to the top of the table. It is a massive 20 minutes for Real Madrid. Can they find a couple of goals here?
Williams has the pace to drive away from Pepe in a wide area, but the youngster cannot find Benat with a lois cross. Real Madrid are down the other end moments later, but Kroos's cross is cleared.
CHANCE! Free header for Varane from a corner, but his effort is wide of the post.
SUB! Real Madrid make their first change as Jese replaces Illarramendi.
CHANCE! Wonderful chance for Ronaldo as Benzema slides an excellent pass into the Portuguese, but Iraizoz comes out to make a vital block. The tempo is so high at the moment.
BOOKING! Isco (Real Madrid) is booked for a poor challenge on Williams.
SUB! Bilbao make their second change of the match as Guillermo replaces Williams.
Real Madrid have little under 15 minutes of normal time remaining to turn this one around. It could be a turning point in the title race there is no question about that. Silva is imminent for the away side.
POST! Bilbao come close to scoring a second as Aduriz meets a high ball inside the box, but his header hits the post before dropping wide. Sensational effort from the forward.
SUB! Real Madrid make their second change as Silva replaces Kroos.
Bale earns a free kick in a wide area as Real Madrid turn up the temperature once again. Can they find a way of taking something from this match? Bilbao are also threatening in the final third.
SUB! Real Madrid make their third change as Hernandez replaces Benzema.
There is still time for Real Madrid, but Bilbao are working so hard in defensive areas. That said, you just get the feeling that there is going to be at least one more big chance in this La Liga clash.
POST! Oh my word! Bale comes close to scoring a sensational effort as he strikes one from all of 45 yards, but his strike hits the post and Hernandez cannot convert the rebound!
Possession football from Bilbao in the last couple of minutes as the clock continues to tick on. Real Madrid throw another desperate ball towards the penalty box, but the danger is cleared yet again.
BOOKING! Marcelo (Real Madrid) is booked for an elbow on Rico.
Real Madrid have had so much of the ball in this second period, but they have not really done enough to deserve a goal. There is still time, but Bilbao are close to picking up a famous three points here.
BOOKING! Bilbao make their third change as Toquero replaces Rico.
We are into the second minute of three added here.
Lucas Silva has time and space outside the Bilbao box, but fires high and wide, much to the disgust of Ronaldo, who had found some space inside the area. Bilbao are almost, almost there.
FULL-TIME: Bilbao 1-0 Real Madrid
Incredible scenes as the referee brings the match to a close, with Bilbao winning 1-0 against the league leaders to move into eighth position. Victory for Barcelona tomorrow against Rayo would drop Real Madrid into second place. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for the action. Good evening!