Zidane’s Men Face Tough Away Test In San Mames
Real Madrid face perhaps their toughest away test between now and the end of the season when they travel to face seventh placed Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday afternoon.
Madrid go into the game after returning to the top of the Liga Santander in controversial fashion last weekend, after referee Mateu Lahoz failed to send goalkeeper Keylor Navas for a clear foul when he was the last man.
Zinedine Zidane will have to decide whether he continues with Navas, who was later at fault for Betis’ goal in that game, or bring Kiko Casilla into his starting 11. That is a distinct possibility given that Casilla is stronger in the air than the Costa Rican keeper, something Athletic and striker Aritz Aduriz are likely to try and test.
Gareth Bale is available following suspension and will go straight back into the side, while Casemiro will also start after being rested a week ago.
Meanwhile Pepe and Rafael Varene are both struggling with injury and Nacho Fernando looks likely to partner Sergio Ramos in the heart of the visitors’ defense.
Athletic will be without suspended midfielder Mikel San Jose, whose height will be missed when defending set pieces, but his place should be filled by Ander Iturraspe.
Meanwhile Aduriz should be in conditions to start, while Inaki Williams will be looking to use his pace to cause the Madrid defense problems down the flanks.
The Basque side are unbeaten in their last 19 home matches in all competitions, although they have a habit of conceding an early goal to their rivals and if their displays have not always been convincing, there is no doubting the faith of a side that will count on the support of a packed stadium where Real Madrid are probably the most unpopular of visitors.