Having won their way through to the Champions League semifinals during the week, Real Madrid will look to continue their good form when they take on Athletic Bilbao in La Liga this weekend.
Los Blancos are undefeated in their past eight domestic matches, and while they might not catch Barcelona on top of the table, there's still plenty of pride and prestige for Jose Mourinho's men to play for here, which should make this one a fascinating fixture.
Bilbao have struggled somewhat this season, and enter this one down in 14th position. However, playing at home this year, they've only lost to two of the top seven teams in the league and will likely put up a strong showing in this one.
Can Marcelo Bielsa's side get the job done at home here, or will Madrid continue their recent dominance with a comfortable victory on the night?
Read on for a full preview including all the need-to-know details, live viewing information and analysis as well as some last-minute predictions.
Date: Sunday, April 14, 2013
Start time: 3 p.m. ET
Venue: San Mames Stadium, Bilbao, Spain
Live Stream and Viewing Information
According to Live Soccer TV, beIN SPORT will provide live coverage of the match throughout the United States. Sky Go and Sky Sports 2/HD will do the same throughout the United Kingdom.
2012-13 La Liga Season so Far
As mentioned, Real Madrid have been very impressive this season domestically, chalking up 20 wins with five draws and five defeats. Moreover, they've netted 77 goals and conceded just 29 in return, giving them one the best goal-differences in Spain.
However, that blistering form has not been as solid on the road this year, where they've won nearly half as many games. All five defeats have come on the road, and with nearly half the goals scored also, Madrid will seemingly have a tough time in this fixture.
Bilbao have conceded just 20 goals at San Mames this season, but it's been their attack that's had the biggest question marks surronding it throughout 2013.
The Basque club average just 1.13 goals per game this season and have scored just five goals in their past eight matches. Bilbao are keeping clean sheets in nearly half their home fixtures this season, but will no doubt find that tough to do against Madrid's dominant attack.
Key Player to Watch: Luka Modric, Real Madrid
Athletic Bilbao will come into this fixture missing a number of players due to suspension, with Aritz Aduriz and Oscar de Marcos both notable absences. Madrid too will be without star midfielders Mesut Ozil, Kaka and Michael Essien, who will all miss this one due to injury.
Los Blancos will therefore be looking for a man to step up in the middle of the field for them and take control—directing their attack and creating chances alike—and given what we've seen this season, than man could well be summer signing Luka Modric.
The former Tottenham Hotspur man has thrived when given opportunities by Mourinho this season, and with key players out, could prove his worth to the club with a strong showing here, regardless of which players take the field around him.
Modric is a fantastic runner with the ball whose ability to push forward with speed and direction can truly hurt opponents. He has a fantastic long-range shot and is a deadly finisher in front goal, making him a potent threat for Los Blancos in this one.
Look for the Croatian international to have a very strong showing here.
Biggest Storyline to Follow: Will Mourinho Rest Cristiano Ronaldo?
Given their Champions League game during the week and the importance of Cristiano Ronaldo to Madrid, you'd have to think that Mourinho will be looking to rest his superstar in this one.
The Portuguese star has been dynamic for Los Blancos throughout the European competition, and with a semifinal showdown looming against last year's German champions in Borussia Dortmund, Madrid will need their star winger to be completely ready to go for that one.
They cannot gain on Barcelona in the title race, so there's no real need for Madrid to win this match compared to this time last season. As a result, we could well see reduced minutes from Ronaldo in this one or even a no-show, as Mourinho looks to preserve his main man for the month ahead.
How his absence will impact Madrid still remains to be seen.
Three Stats to Consider
6. Athletic Bilbao have lost their last six fixtures against Real Madrid.
3. Bilbao have only scored three first half goals in their last 12 fixtures in La Liga. The Basque club are averaging 56 percent of their goals in the second half this season whilst Madrid have conceded 62 percent of their domestic goals in the first half.
122. Jose Mourinho will be looking for his 122nd victory in charge of Real Madrid this week—the third highest in the illustrious history of the club.
Madrid have been on an absolute tear of late this season, and given their current form, it's hard to see them walking away from this one in defeat.
Athletic Bilbao have been tough to break down this season, and with the likes of Kaka, Ozil and Ronaldo all potentially seeing time on the sidelines, Los Blancos' attack will be depleted. However, having said that, they still have more than enough talent on the field and should be able to get past the defensive solidity that Bilbao have employed all year.
Look for the home side to challenge Madrid early in this one—perhaps holding them out until the half-time interval—but expect Los Blancos to break through.
Their form is just too good right now. Even with players absent and a good defensive team against them, they should end up winners in this one.
Prediction: Athletic Bilbao 0, Real Madrid 2
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