Real Madrid Vs. Athletic Bilbao, Liga BBVA 2013-2014: Scouting Athletic

Pablo Blazquez Dominguez

Real Madrid face Athletic Bilbao this Sunday (12:00 CET). The Basque team has won its two games of this Liga BBVA season, one against Osasuna and the other against Valladolid.

New Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto Valverde has started his second tenure with the Basque team with two wins. After Marcelo Bielsa's terrible 2012-2013 campaign and the turmoil over Fernando Llorente well behind, Bilbao find themselves having to play in Real Sociedad's stadium Anoeta until the New San Mamés is completed. That's right, the former San Mamés, also known as The Cathedral does not longer exist.

Fernando Llorente left the club as a free agent and signed for Juventus, while Bilbao decided to strengthen the team's midfield with Beñat Etxebarría. Beñat was a key player in Betis' successful last two seasons, and he will surely be an important asset for Bilbao.

Ander Herrera's presence in this match is yet to be confirmed after President Josu Urrutia admitted an offer from Manchester United to sign the young midfielder away from Athletic Bilbao. Urrutia explained that they are not going to negotiate for any of their players, but with United reportedly offering around 30M€, Herrera might as well be headed to Old Trafford before transfer deadline.

Aritz Aduriz will likely be Athletic's striker at the Bernabéu. He's not Llorente, but he can still harm the opposition with his aerial skills. Iker Muniain is not living up to his true potential, and he's yet to prove his value as a player in this Athletic Bilbao. Muniain could play as a left-winger against Real Madrid's Arbeloa or Carvajal.

It will be very important for Real Madrid to defend set-pieces against this team. If Khedira is not able to play as a starter -he just rejoined the team two days ago-, Real Madrid lack the size to defend Gurpegui, Sola and Aduriz. Casemiro is a good aerial player, so maybe Ancelotti will start him to balance Real Madrid's size a bit. Beñat is a really good free-kick shooter, so Real's defensive line should try to avoid fouling close to Diego López's goal.

If Modric is able to dictate the tempo of the game and control Bilbao's counterattacks with a good defensive positioning, Real Madrid should be able to beat this Bilbao side.

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