Containing the bleeding has become Real Madrid’s latest task. After starting La Liga on a peerless tear, Los Blancos have two victories in their last four domestic matches and haven’t quite regained their form after the devastating 4-0 loss to Atletico Madrid on Feb. 7.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side maintain a narrow two-point lead over Barcelona as they take on Athletic Bilbao Saturday at San Mames. Madrid thumped Athletic 5-0 in their last meeting on Oct. 5 at the Bernabeu, highlighted by Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat trick and Karim Benzema’s brace.
It was the kind of talismanic work that littered Real’s start to the term, but was severely lacking in the 1-1 finish with sixth-place Villarreal on Sunday. Ronaldo managed to score his 30th league goal in 22 starts this season, so the issue doesn’t really begin with Madrid’s mega star.
Instead, Ancelotti will likely ask more of winger Gareth Bale, who’s totaled 10 goals this season, but has failed to score in the last six La Liga matches. The Welshman’s last goal was a penalty strike in the 89th minute against Cordoba on Jan. 24, when Ronaldo was sent off for slapping and kicking defenders and later suspended.
But Madrid can't get caught up in neither their positive results against Bilbao nor their poor recent results in La Liga. The victories over Deportivo and Elche serve little to Madrid’s confidence, even while keeping the Catalans at bay before their matchup on March 22.
And this Bilbao side, currently 10th in La Liga, can’t be overlooked after they secured a spot in the Copa del Rey final against Barcelona. Making up for their Europa League letdown to Torino 5-4 on aggregate, Ernesto Valverde’s side sewed up a 3-1 aggregate victory over Espanyol behind goals from forward and leading scorer Aritz Aduriz and defender Xabier Etxeita Wednesday.
Aduriz now has nine goals on the year, and Bilbao are en route to their first Copa del Rey final since 2012 while hoping for their first win since 1984.
Kickoff Time: 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: beIN Sport will broadcast, and supports can find the channel for their cable or satellite provider here
Live Streaming Info: A live stream from beIN Sport is available here
Prediction: Real Madrid over Athletic Bilbao, 3-1