Real Madrid will play again this mid-week to complete their Matchday 15 in the real sense. The game against Athletic Club of Bilbao, scheduled as a resumption game after an International break was rescheduled due to the unavailability of the South Americans who couldn’t return on time from international duty.
LaLiga decided to postpone a few of the matches due to the same reason and they’ll be accommodated this midweek. The Capital side would play hosts to the dangerous Athletic Club who come for a tough test after being winless in their last five games and would be looking to change that. Athletic has always been a master of upsets and they are quite an accomplished side whose season hasn’t gone according to plans.
Real Madrid on the other hand, is enjoying a nine-match unbeaten run in all competitions and has extracted favorable results in their last six games. Going by the recent form of the two sides, the game appears to be another victory for Real to further add to their lead at the summit of the standings.
However, games aren’t that simple, are they? Especially when they are against a blood-sniffing Athletic side who would already be frustrated with their recent form. They’ll be without their center-back Inigo Martinez who is out serving a suspension after a red card in their clash with Granada. Another important player is Asier Villalibre who is expected to miss the game. He can be a handful for Real’s defense given his unreal strength.
Real, on the other hand, would be without Dani Ceballos. But more importantly, the attack is well wrecked with injuries because Rodrygo Goes and Eden Hazard are both potentially out again with Gastroenteritis while Gareth Bale is still under-recovery. As such, here are three things to do for Real Madrid to avoid dropping points against Athletic Club.
Stay focused while defending aerially
Athletic Club is distinguished for the physical aspect of their play. As such, winning the aerial duels would be a big factor in this game. The side that excels here will move on to create more chances off the ball-retrievals.
The onus would be on the center-backs, David Alaba and Eder Militao. More so on Militao, given his reliability in the air. Athletic Club has a great collection of crosses this season and so, defending well on the wider spaces would also be a crucial task in the game.
Real Madrid conceded a very easy goal in the last game when Sevilla’s Rafa Mir was left unmarked during a set-piece. Those are the types of mistakes Real needs to avoid in this game. Conceding first can be deadly given how good Athletic are at holding on to a lead.
Keep tabs on the combination play between Iker Muniain and Inaki Williams
Iker Muniain has been Athletic’s main playmaker this season with two goals and four assists to his name in the league, per WhoScored. He is ranked as Athletic’s best player with an average rating of 7.34 this season by SofaScore. He is easily the man to give a little special attention to.
Inaki Williams on the other hand has stepped up as Athletic’s main goal-scorer in absence of Villalibre. He has scored three so far while assisting one. Together with Muniain, these two have played some brilliant football. Muniain’s crosses are to drool over and the young Williams has shown his abilities in finishing. Real Madrid must deal with these two in order to secure a favorable result.
Let Karim Benzema dictate in attack
This game will be a very important one for Karim Benzema. The Frenchman was a deserving candidate for the Ballon d’Or. While Madridistas knew at heart that he wouldn’t be winning it this year, they expected a top-three finish for their F1 striker. It was surprising and embarrassing for the awarding committee to have Benzema finish fourth behind winner Lionel Messi, Robert Lewandowski, and Jorginho.
He’d have a point to prove in the very next game he plays and that would be the midweek’s fixture. The world needs a necessary reminder of how unfair the Ballon d’Or standings were this year and what’d be better than dropping a masterclass in the very next game.
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Going through Karim Benzema would be beneficial for Real Madrid as it always is. But, there would be a much more personal angle associated this mid-week, and Athletic Club should better be prepared to face his full blow. That would be the last thing for Real Madrid to do in order to secure all three points in what looks to be a challenging home game.