Estadio San Mames, Bilbao
09.04.2011, 21:30 IST kick-off
After a convincing win against Tottenham Hotspur, Real Madrid travel to Estadio San Mames for one of their tougher away games against Athletic Bilbao. Los Blancos put up an inspired performance and enthralled the Santiago Bernabeu with their flawless display. It was one of the most dominating performance by Real Madrid in UCL this season as they maintained 72% possession and Cristiano Ronaldo alone managing 14 shots. Jose Mourinho will certainly be delighted with the effort his team put in and will be hoping for a winning momentum on the road to El Clasico. The defeat to Sporting Gijon certainly brought an end to La Liga hopes but another defeat might lessen their confidence in the next crucial fixtures.
Athletic Bilbao have been kind of patchy in their last five fixtures but their victory against Almeria will certainly help them in their quest for Europa glory. Standing fifth in the league, Los Leones have every chance of making it to the Europa league.
Team News and Tactical brief
Real Madrid’s defense had a brief scare with the injury to Marcelo but after his performance against Spurs, Mourinho would be a relieved man. Pepe, Carvalho and Ramos are expected to feature alongside Marcelo. The main threat for the defense would be from Fernando Llorente. The Athletic hitman has been in prime form this season and his ability from set pieces will be a worry for the likes of Carvalho and Pepe. Munain is another dangerous player, who will need constant attention.
Xabi Alonso is indispensable
Xabi Alonso, the fulcrum, is the most important part of the Real Madrid set up. His absence against Sporting proved to a very decisive factor as Los Blancos lost the plot and failed to set the momentum in offense. With Khedira and Lass, the creativity is lost and hence Alonso is indispensable. Now with Khedira injured, Lass will most probably make the cut.
Benzema has just begun training and will look to start against Spurs at WHL. Higuain and Kaka have just made a comeback after injury and will not feature in the starting line-up. With Mesut Ozil and Di Maria fit, Mourinho has no problem with his two offensive players, however, the fitness of Ronaldo is a matter of concern. But his full time display against Spurs proves that he is fit to start. Adebayor’s heroics in the UCL are sure to help him with a starting place in the team as he is a target man, who can cause problems to the Athletico defense with his height and movement.
Mourinho will look to get the first goal as quickly as possible as Real Madrid have demonstrated their ability to dominate matches in which they score their first goal early.
Probable Starting line-ups : Casillas; Ramos, Pepe, Carvalho, Marcelo; Alonso, Lass; DiMaria; Ozil, Ronaldo; Adebayor.
Joaquin Caparros knows that this isn’t a very good time to face the 9 time European Champion. His defense has looked shaky and he will remember the 5-1 thrashing Athletic Club received at Santiago Bernabeu, a game in which they conceded penalties and free kicks. The defense of Castillo and Iraola has to keep tabs on Adeboyor and track the runs of the opposition wingers into their box. The other main threat arises from the overlapping fullbacks who are equally capable of scoring sublime goals.
Caparros will look to pressurize the Real offense by attacking the ball and will also look to avoid an early goal. In Llorente, he has an amazing striker who doesn’t need lot of chances to score goals. He is the guy who pops up at the right place, at the right time.With Muniain in good form against Almeria, the coach would love to start him against one of the best sides in Europe currently.
It will be a good tactical battle in the first half, as Mourinho will definitely look to attack from the onset, while Caparros will be looking for the spaces in the Madird defense to exploit.
Probable Starting line-up: Iraizoz; Iraola, San Jose, Borja, Castillo; Lopez, , Orbaiz, Muniain; Llorente, Toquero.
TheHardTackle’s PLAYER TO WATCH OUT FOR
CR7 – slowly getting into top gear.
Cristiano Ronaldo ( Real Madrid): The Portuguese star has had his moments with injuries but a confident full time display against Spurs must do him a world of good. Watching Ronaldo deftly glide through opponents, en route to goal, is one of the most amazing sights in world football. Madridistas are eagerly waiting to see him in such flow, before the real action kicks off next week. Ronaldo will surely look to add a few more to his already impressive goal tally.
Athletic Bilbao 1 – 2 Real Madrid
The loss against Sporting was the first home defeat for Madrid this season and for Jose in nine years. Real Madrid have looked uninspired for only a couple of times with the match against Sporting being one of them. Athletic club are undoubtedly a tough opponent but Mourinho will be happy with nothing less than 3 points at San Mames.
TheHardTackle’s BLAST FROM THE PAST