Having waltzed to three victories so far, the Merengue face their toughest challenge yet in La Liga at San Mames
Real Madrid travel to Bilbao for their toughest test of the Liga season to date as Athletic Club await at San Mames on Saturday.
Coach Julen Lopetegui has made a flawless start to the 2018-19 season, winning all three games so far to keep track with defending champions and fellow league leaders Barcelona.
Athletic are also unbeaten, however, and will relish the opportunity to put one over on their bitter rivals from the Spanish capital.
With Barca also playing in the Basque Country on Saturday, the region will have all eyes watching in an early test of both Clasico sides’ title credentials.
|Game||Athletic Club vs Real Madrid|
|Date||Saturday, September 15|
|Time||7.45pm BST / 2.45pm ET|
In the United States (US), the game can be watched live on beIN SPORTS and streamed on beIN SPORTS Connect .
|US TV channel||Online stream|
|beIN SPORTS||beIN SPORTS Connect|
In the United Kingdom (UK), the game will be shown and live-streamed on Eleven Sports.
|UK TV channel||Online stream|
|Eleven Sports||Eleven Sports|
|Goalkeepers||Remiro, Herrerin, Simon|
|Defenders||Ganea, Nunez, De Marcos, Alvarez, Martinez, Berchiche, San Jose|
|Midfielders||Dani Garcia, Raul Garcia, Susaeta, Etxebarria, Iturraspe|
|Forwards||Williams, Aduriz, Muniain|
Athletic coach Eduardo Berizzo will be able to field Aritz Aduriz and Inigo Martinez for the weekend clash at San Mames.
Forward Aduriz has not featured for his club since the first round of Liga games, but he has been given a clean bill of health to take on the Merengue.
Athletic XI: Simón, De Marcos, Álvarez, Martínez, Berchiche, Dani García, Carillo, Benat, Muniain, Susaeta, Williams.
Subs: San Jose, Rico, Aduriz, Capa, Balenziaga, Oleaga, Nolaskoain.
|Position||Real Madrid players|
|Goalkeepers||Navas, Casilla, Courtois|
|Defenders||Carvajal, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Nacho, Reguilon, Sanchez|
|Midfielders||Kroos, Casemiro, Modric, M. Llorente, Ceballos, Valverde|
|Forwards||Benzema, Bale, Asensio, Mariano, Vazquez, Vinicius Jr|
Lopetegui has a clean bill of health following the international break, with the likes of Luka Modric and Sergio Ramos returning to their club without fitness worries after featuring for their countries.
Real Madrid XI: Courtois, Carvajal, Varane, Ramos, Marcelo, Kroos, Ceballos, Modric, Bale, Benzema, Asensio.
Subs: Navas, Nacho, Mariano, Casemiro, Vazquez, Odriozola, Isco.
Real Madrid are firm favourites to emerge victorious, with bet365 pricing them at 8/15 to take all three points. Athletic are considered to be 5/1 shots, with a draw available at 10/3.
Click here to see all of bet 365’s offers for the game, including goalscoring markets, correct score predictions and more .
Madrid have dispatched Getafe, Girona and Leganes so far in La Liga to share the summit with fellow strong starters Barcelona.
Saturday’s visit to Bilbao, however, represents the stiffest test of Lopetegui’s Merengue since going down to Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Super Cup, and with the Champions League looming Madrid will be keen to take a strong result from San Mames.
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Key to the club’s success so far have been the performances of strikers Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale, who have stepped up to make sure the absence of the departed Cristiano Ronaldo has barely been felt.
Benzema leads the league scoring charts alongside Lionel Messi with four goals so far, while the Welsh wizard trails by just one. That form in front of the net has helped the European champions run out 4-1 winners in both their last games and hints that life without Ronaldo may not be quite as daunting as first feared.
Still, both Bale and Benzema will have to be at their best to break down Athletic.
The Basque side will feel rather aggrieved not to have two wins out of two at this point, having thrown away a 2-0 lead against Huesca in the final 20 minutes.
Nevertheless, unbeaten in both their games and with plenty of goals, Athletic will not shy away from the challenge of upsetting their rivals at a ground which is rarely a comfortable setting for the side from the Spanish capital.