MX23RW : Thursday, June 20 00:20:42| >> :600:5240680:5240680:
Apr 21, 2019 at 3.15pm UK at ​Estadio Santiago Bernabéu (Madrid)
Attendance: 59,815
Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao
Benzema (47', 76', 90')
FT(HT: 0-0)

Preview: Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Sunday's La Liga clash between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, including team news and predicted lineups.

Real Madrid will attempt to return to winning ways in La Liga when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Bernabeu on Sunday afternoon.

Madrid were held by Leganes on Monday night, but are only four points off second-placed Atletico Madrid and will still be eyeing the position behind Barcelona, who are nearing another title.

Real Madrid

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema celebrates scoring against Eibar in La Liga on April 6, 2019© Reuters

The opportunity to finish second in La Liga is still open for Madrid, who are four points off second-placed Atletico on the same number of matches. In truth, though, the club will just want to get through the remainder of the season with minimum fuss before preparing for a huge summer transfer window.

There is no getting away from the fact that Los Blancos need to spend big this summer. Eden Hazard will reportedly arrive from Chelsea, but president Florentino Perez needs to bring in two or three big-name players to ensure that his team are challengers for the major trophies next season.

Madrid did reach the semi-finals of this season's Copa del Rey, but they were dumped out of the Champions League by Ajax in the round of 16 and currently sit 13 points off La Liga leaders Barcelona. Nine league defeats at this stage is simply not good enough for a team of Los Blancos' ilk.

Results have been quite good since Zidane returned as head coach - winning three of their five league matches. Los Blancos lost at Valencia on April 3, however, and were held by Leganes on Monday night. There are a lot of problems that need to be addressed ahead of the 2019-2020 campaign.

In terms of what is ahead, the capital outfit will end the month with trips to Getafe and Rayo Vallecano, before welcoming Villarreal at the start of next month. Madrid will then travel to Real Sociedad and welcome Real Betis in their final two matches of the season.

The European champions have won 11 of their 16 home league matches this season but have also lost four times. Bilbao's away record this term has not been the best, but it is certainly worth noting that Madrid have not beaten the Basque outfit in a La Liga game at the Bernabeu since October 2016.

When all is said and done this season, whether Madrid finish second or third is not too important. It is vital that the club get things right this summer, though, otherwise there will be more struggles next season.

Recent form: WWWLWD
Recent form (all competitions): WWWLWD

Athletic Bilbao

Barcelona's Gerard Pique challenges Athletic Bilbao's Raul Garcia during their La Liga clash on February 10, 2019© Reuters

On a run of four wins from their last five league matches, Bilbao will be full of confidence heading into this weekend's clash in the Spanish capital. The Basque outfit shaded a five-goal thriller against Rayo Vallecano last time out and currently sit seventh in the table heading into Week 33 in Spain's top flight.

Just three points separate Bilbao from sixth-placed Valencia, while Gaizka Garitano's side are actually only six points off the top four. It is going to be tough to finish in the Champions League positions, but a win this weekend would certainly hand the club huge confidence in their pursuit of a European finish.

The 2017-18 campaign proved to be hugely disappointing for Bilbao as they finished down in 16th. It is worth remembering that they posted fourth as recently as 2013-14, though, and finished seventh, fifth and seventh in three straight seasons between 2014 and 2017.

Madrid (9) have lost more league games than Bilbao (8) this season. Meanwhile, only Valencia (16) have drawn more fixtures than the Basque club (13). There is a makings of a really good team, but their restrictions in the transfer market makes it very difficult to keep moving forward.

Bilbao have had a number of impressive performers this season, but Inaki Williams has been their star. The 24-year-old has managed 12 La Liga goals during the 2018-19 campaign and certainly has the ability to cause Madrid all sorts of problems at the Bernabeu this weekend.

As mentioned above, Bilbao's away form this season has not been the best - winning just three of their 15 games on their travels; that is in contract to their home form, which has seen them lose just twice.

It is certainly not beyond the Basque side to make a late push for the top four, but they probably have to win this weekend if that is going to be the case, which would lead them nicely into their next two matches away to Leganes and at home to Alaves before the end of the month.

Recent form: DWWWLW
Recent form (all competitions): WDWWLW

Team News

Sergio Ramos on the floor for Real Madrid on March 2, 2019© Reuters

Madrid are still without the services of Vinicius Junior and Sergio Ramos through injury, but Thibaut Courtois has trained this week and is in line for his first appearance under Zidane.

Toni Kroos is still recovering from illness, though, and it seems unlikely that the Germany international will be involved against the Basque club.

Dani Ceballos could feature in central midfield, while Zidane has decisions to make further forward when it comes to which two players will start alongside Karim Benzema.

Marco Asensio and Lucas Vazquez could get the nod, but Gareth Bale will also be hoping to start having only played the final 13 minutes against Leganes last time out.

As for Bilbao, Mikel San Jose is available once again after missing the clash with Rayo last weekend through suspension.

Head coach Garitano has no fresh injury concerns, meaning that Williams will again start in the final third with support from Iker Muniain and Inigo Cordoba.

Raul Garcia, meanwhile, is again expected to feature in an attacking midfield role.

Real Madrid possible starting lineup:
Courtois; Carvajal, Varane, Nacho, Marcelo; Modric, Casemiro, Ceballos; Asensio, Benzema, Vazquez

Athletic Bilbao possible starting lineup:
Herrerin; De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche; San Jose, Benat; Cordoba, Garcia, Muniain; Williams

Head To Head

Each of the last three league meetings between the two teams have finished level, including 1-1 draws at San Mames earlier this season and the Bernabeu in the corresponding match last term.

The last time that Los Blancos beat Bilbao on home soil was back in October 2016, but the Basque outfit have not triumphed at the Bernabeu in 14 years.

Sports Mole Logo

We say: Real Madrid 1-1 Athletic Bilbao

We are finding it hard to separate the two teams this weekend. Madrid, on paper, should be favourites, but the capital outfit are not a cohesive unit at the moment and Bilbao are certainly capable of picking up a point.

Who will win Sunday's clash between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao?

Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao
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Marco Asensio celebrates scoring for Real Madrid on September 22, 2018
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