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Real Madrid Vs. Athletic Bilbao, La Liga 2012 Match Preview and Open Thread: Real Madrid Wants to Rebound From Wednesday's Defeat

Kaká and Martínez fighting for the ball in last year's clash in San Mamés
Kaká and Martínez fighting for the ball in last year's clash in San Mamés

This game is what ultimately matters for Real Madrid. The team would obviously be willing to win and advance to the next Copa del Rey round, but Mourinho has said over and over that the team's goal is to win la Liga. In order to do that, his players will need to recover mentally after what was a tough loss to digest.

Athletic Bilbao will visit Bernabeu (21:30 local time) to get the three points. This is not the easiest game that could come after a Clasico, but after December's loss against Barcelona, Madrid went to Sevilla and beat Marcelino's team in their own house, so the team's capability of coming back from a loss is guaranteed.

Marcelo Bielsa's team will be a very hard challenge for Real Madrid tonight as his team always applies a very intense press on the rival's part of the pitch. They are also a really big threat when the ball is in the air because of Llorente and Javi Martínez, so if the team was having a hard time defending set pieces, this better be a turning point if they don't want Bilbao to score.

In this kind of league, Real Madrid can't make a single mistake any weekend. The three points are always essential because the five-point margin Real Madrid has is not something that should be wasted. Mourinho's team has never had that big of a margin in la Liga, and it is likely that Barcelona is not going to miss a lot more, so this games against teams like Bilbao, Sevilla and such could turn to be very dangerous due to the team's anxiety to get the three points.

Bernabeu is a really difficult stadium, so it is not expected that the crowd will cheer a lot for the team before they score. They might even get nervous if the players don't manage to score soon and start booing, so the sooner Madrid can finish the game, the better.

The bad thing is that Bilbao has a very solid defense and midfield with Iraola, Gurpegui and Javi Martínez, so score it's probably going to be a hard task.

Mourinho will likely start Callejón to cover Di María's spot. Although both Higuaín and Benzema started against Barcelona, the Portuguese coach doesn't like to play both at the same time. That way the team has a very good spark coming off the bench. The other option could be Kaká playing with Özil, but Madrid probably needs the right winger to press more than what Özil or Kaká do.

If Pepe is not fit, Varane will take his spot to cover Llorente in the aerial plays. The French has looked very good in every game he's had this season, so this might be another chance for him to prove that he already deserves to be the team's third Center back.

A win could be very balsamic and a loss or draw could complicate a lot Mourinho's job, specially if the Santiago Bernabeu starts to show its anger with the team.

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