Preview: Real Madrid v Athletic Bilbao

Real Madrid will continue their late push for the runners-up spot in La Liga when they welcome Athletic Bilbao to the Santiago Bernabeu on Wednesday.

La Liga
18 April 2018
Gameweek 33
Kick-off: 21H30 (GMT+2)
Venue: Santiago Bernabeu

Referee: J. Martinez
Assistants: D. Barbero, C. Noval
Fourth Official: J. Mena

Head-to-head summary:
Real Madrid 53 34 7 12
Athletic Bilbao 53 12 7 34

Previous encounter:
Athletic Bilbao 0-0 Real Madrid 02/12/17 (La Liga)

Players to watch:

Isco was the star of the show in the 2-1 victory over former club Malaga on Sunday, opening the scoring with a free-kick before setting up Casemiro for the winner. The Spanish midfielder hasn’t been a regular starter this season, but has still managed to register six goals and six assists in 27 La Liga appearances.

Bilbao’s problems stem from a lack of goals. They have only scored 35 in 32 league outings, but conceded just 38. Raul Garcia is the club’s joint-top scorer in La Liga with eight goals from midfield and found the back of the net in the 3-2 defeat to Deportivo La Coruna last time out – his third goal in five matches.

Team form and manager quotes:

Zinedine Zidane’s side have recovered from an indifferent first half of the season to close within four points of neighbours Atletico Madrid, who occupy second position.

Los Blancos have only dropped points in five of their 16 league games in 2018 and are unbeaten in their last six outings. The recent goalless draw with Los Colchoneros didn’t really aid their cause, but Real got their challenge back on track with a 2-1 win at Malaga on Sunday – Zidane’s 100th victory in charge.

Bilbao held the champions of Spain to a goalless in the reverse fixture, and Zidane is expecting the visitors to put up another fight in midweek.

“They’re a team that don’t deserve to be where they are in the table. Maybe more was expected this year because they’re a very good team that competes very well,” the Frenchman said.

“They’re a complete team that will come here to try to pick up points. We have to be ready, especially when it comes to their strengths – the second ball, crossing. We have to be switched on to these situations.

“The most important thing for us is to try to get back to second place, which is our goal. We climbed back up to third, tomorrow we’re playing at home and we want to get closer to second place and we’ll try to put in a good performance.”

Bilbao have blown hot and cold this season. They haven’t claimed back-to-back wins in the league since the last game of 2017 and the first one of the New Year, which came in the middle of a 10-match unbeaten run.

Jose Angel Ziganda’s men lost 3-2 to struggling Deportivo La Coruna last time out and have dropped to 13th in the standings, nine points adrift of European qualification.

A promising run in the Europa League came to an end in the quarter-finals when they were knocked out by Marseille 5-2 on aggregate.

Team news:

The hosts continue to be without defender Nacho, who hasn’t featured since the clash with Las Palmas when he was forced off with a hamstring injury.

Xabier Etxeita misses the trip to the Spanish capital after taking a knock to his knee against Deportivo La Coruna.