Cristiano Ronaldo looks set to be passed fit, but Real Madrid will be without four players for their final visit to San Mames to take on Atheltic Bilbao.
Ronaldo picked up an injury late on after he had scored twice in Madrid’s Champions League quarterfinal second leg against Galatasaray to help his side progress 5-3 on aggregate. The Portugal international is now back in training, although it remains to be seen whether he will still be rested. Michael Essien, Mesut Ozil, Kaka and Alvaro Arbeloa are ruled out with injuries.
Madrid are 13 points behind Barcelona at the top of La Liga, but assistant coach Aitor Karanka is eager that the club not fall further back.
“This is a match in which we have to take the points, to reduce the gap if we can or at least make sure it doesn’t get any bigger,” he said, according to Real Madrid’s official website.
“San Mames is always special; they have players out through injury, but Real Madrid could be the kind of opponent they need to turn their season around, one which has so far not been as good as they would have hoped, so we will have to give 100 percent as we always do.”
Bilbao will be leaving San Mames to move into a new arena next season and one man that has particularly fond memories of the famous old stadium is Iker Casillas. The goalkeeper made his debut for Madrid there in 1999, but Karanka refused to reveal whether Casillas would again be left on the bench, despite returning from a broken thumb.
Bilbao will also be keen to record a victory over Madrid in order to give San Mames a good send off in one of the final games there. A win would also provide a welcome boost after what has been a poor season for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
The Basque club will be without a quartet of players -- Oscar de Marcos, Carlos Gurpegui, Aymeric Laporte and Aritz Aduriz -- through suspension. Defender Andoni Iraola will miss the match with a hamstring injury.
Athletic Bilbao (probable)
D: Ramalho, Ekiza, Aurtenetxe, Castillo
M: Iturraspe, Jose, Herrera
F: Susaeta, Llorente, Munian
Real Madrid (probable)
D: Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo
M: Khedira, Alonso
Callejon, Modric, Morata
Prediction: Already without several players through injury, it remains to be seen to what degree Jose Mourinho will rotate his Madrid side. Against one of the league’s most accommodating defenses, Madrid should have plenty of joy, even if Ronaldo starts on the bench. But Bilbao have been much better at home than away this season and, eager to make the most of their last clash with Madrid at San Mames, could give their fans something to cheer.
Athletic Bilbao 2-2 Real Madrid
Where to watch: The Liga match will kick-off at 3 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.