Real Madrid's place in La Liga's top four is secure, but it'll be hoping to maintain its form with a Champions League semifinal on the horizon.

By 90Min
April 17, 2018

Real Madrid will look to extend their unbeaten league run to seven games when they play host to Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday evening at the Santiago Bernabeu. 

With only six games left of the season, the third-placed Los Blancos won't be reclaiming the league title but could yet finish ahead city rivals Atletico Madrid. 

A win on Wednesday would see Zinedine Zidane's side temporarily cut the gap to Los Colchoneros to just one point. 

Like their opposition, Bilbao don't have much to play for having all but secured their top flight status for next season. Nevertheless, a victory for José Ziganda's 14th-placed side would see them climb three places in the table. 

The two teams played out a goalless draw at the San Mamés Stadium in the reverse fixture back in December. 


Classic Encounter: 

Athletic Bilbao are one of just three teams in Spain who have never faced relegation from the top division - unsurprisingly, Real Madrid and Barcelona are the other two. Accordingly, the two sides have faced off on a number of occasions - 179 to be exact. 

Real have the upper hand in El Viejo Clásico, having won 89 and lost 51 of the fixtures. Since doing the double over their old rivals in the 2004/05 season, Bilbao have managed to beat Los Blancos just twice and both wins were secured at the San Mamés Stadium in the Basque Country. 

In the 2008/2009 season, Bernhard "Bernd" Schuster's defending champions headed to the San Mamés Stadium looking to close the gap on Pep Guardiola's Barcelona to three points. 

Arjen Robben gave the visitors the perfect start when he curled a ferocious left-footed effort into the top corner before Gabriel Heinze's doubled Real's advantage with a header in the 33rd minute. 

Real were left stunned before the break, however, as they somehow let their two goal-lead slip. The unfortunate Heinze sparked the capitulation when he inadvertently diverted the ball into his own net. Ion Velez was then shown a straight red for shoving Iker Casillas in the face, but the keeper was at fault minutes later when he bundled Fernando Llorente's header into his own goal. 

Unfortunately for Los Rojiblancos, Real composed themselves at halftime and ran out eventual 5-2 winners thanks to a superb quick fire double from Klaas Jan Huntelaar and a penalty from Gonzalo Higuain. 

Los Blancos did close the gap on table-toppers Barcelona to three points on the night, but they were ultimately unable to defend their title and Pep Guardiola's side were crowned as champions in May. 


Recent Form:

Real Madrid Home Form: LDWWWW

Real's last performance in Madrid was far from convincing, albeit against a Juventus side who boast a far more threatening squad than Los Leones. The midweek loss to I Bianconeri ended an unbeaten run of five games at the Bernabeu. 

Over the course of the season thus far, Los Blancos have only the fourth best home record in La Liga, although they are joint top-scorers along with rivals Barcelona having scored 45 goals in 16 games. 

Athletic Bilbao Away Form: WLLLWL

Bilbao sprung a surprise in their last away game when they comfortable defeated Villarreal 3-1 at the Estadio de la Cerámica. They have lost four of their last six away games, although those fixtures were away to Marseilles, Barcelona, Sevilla and Atletico Madrid. 

Bilbao's overall away record is slightly better than their position in the league table. In total, they have won four and lost eight of their 16 games away from home. 


Team News:

Real Madrid will be without versatile center back Nacho who is still recovering from a muscle injury. Otherwise, Zidane will have a whole squad to pick from. 

Athletic Bilbao have no injuries concerns ahead of the game. 

Potential Real Madrid Lineup: Navas, Marcelo, Ramos, Vallejo, Hernandez, Casemiro, Kovacic, Asensio, Isco, Vasquez, Benzema.

Potential Athletic Bilbao Lineup: Arrizabalaga, Balenziaga, Martinez, Etxeita, Oscar de Marcos, Benat, Mikel San Jose, Cordoba, Garcia, Susaeta, Williams. 


Prediction: 

Zidane fielded a much-changed side against Malaga at the weekend and is likely to do the same on Wednesday as Los Blancos focus their attention solely on the Champions League semifinal clash to Bayern Munich. 

Nevertheless, even their weakened squad boasts a number of star players who should be able to beat their 14th-placed opposition, especially at home. 

It will be a tight affair but Real Madrid should just about clinch the victory. 

Prediction: Real Madrid 2-1 Athletic Bilbao 

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