After a tough game in Bulgary that happily ended with a victory over Ludogorets last Wednesday, Real Madrid seek to extend their winning streak against Athletic de Bilbao tomorrow, in the last league game before a week off that will be devoted to the National Teams games.
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Although the Lions are going through a hard time right now, they will for sure do their best against one of the rivals that motivate them the most. The games against Athletic are usually very entertaining to watch and it is unfrequent to feel that Real Madrid will get an easy victory out of them but, to be fair, Los Blancos succeeded in seven out of the last eight times they faced the Lions, only conceeding a draw back in February.
As Carlo Ancelotti confirmed in the pre-match press conference, neither Isco nor Varane will be starters tomorrow, while Pepe and Ronaldo are fully recovered, so the lineup that will be chosen is pretty easy to guess. The only reasonable doubt is whether Illarramendi will go back to the bench or if, on the contrary, he will take Modrić's spot. Some reporters in the mainstream Spanish media still conjecture that Navas will play tomorrow since the game will be held in Santiago Bernabéu, but we have no information that suggests that Ancelotti would set this type of rotation policy.
Regardless of the lineup, Real Madrid need to continue their winning streak to keep track of the other contenders for the league title. FC Barcelona, with 19 points, are still top of the table after beating Rayo Vallecano (0-2), followed by a surprising Valencia side, with 17 points, that got a wonderful victory over Atlético de Madrid, who have 14 points. Beating Athletic would make Real Madrid reach the 15 points and overtake their neighbours from Atlético.
- Goalkeepers: Casillas, Navas, Pacheco.
- Defenders: Varane, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo, Carvajal, Arbeloa, Nacho.
- Midfielders: Kroos, James, Bale, Modric, Isco, Illarramendi.
- Strikers: Ronaldo, Benzema, Chicharito Hernández.
Projected lineup: Casillas; Carvajal, Pepe, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Modric, James; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo.
TV Information: Canal + 1 (Spain), beIn Sports (USA), Sky Sports 5 (UK), others.
Prediction: 3-0 for Real Madrid (although I betted for the 5-0 at the #Camiseta200Arbeloa hashtag on Twitter, where you can still try to win a Real Madrid T-Shirt).