The disappointment of the weekend’s La Liga match against Granada drew some criticism to Real Madrid. Still with a few injuries on their way to recovery, Los Blancos can’t afford to repeat a performance like Saturday’s. Athletic Bilbao is usually a tough rival with a complicated stadium; as such, they will hope to break Navas’ pristine record if their teammates get too relaxed.
Preferred Formation: 4-2-3-1
The system remains as the chosen one, but the flaws have become apparent especially in the defense. The opponents reach Navas too easily, failing to score solely on the Costa Rican’s talent. Also, the wings aren’t covered as well as they should.
However, it doesn’t seem like Rafa Benítez is one to give up on his philosophy after three good matches and two average ones.
GK: Keylor Navas
Luck and a controversial assistant referee helped him keep another clean sheet. He’s making some incredible saves and it will be a bad thing to put Casilla instead, at least for now.
RB: Dani Carvajal
Danilo’s still out and Dani’s the only solid choice. He will need to be careful about not losing his position or letting his adversary find a loophole. This is a weakness that he has to work a bit harder to overcome.
At the time of writing, Ramos hasn’t trained with his teammates and forcing him might be a costly mistake. The Portuguese has better odds than Nacho right now.
CB: Raphaël Varane
The Frenchman recovered from his minor injury and was able to play Granada. With his attributes, it’s very unlikely he’ll skip it, as Aduriz will need special treatment.
Isaac Success was very good at beating the Brazilian at the Santiago Bernabéu. This can’t keep happening. The lack of rotation in this position can snowball into a problem if a good competitor isn’t tested.
RCM: Luka Modrić
Both him and Kroos are being cared for by Benítez with constant substitutions or even unplayed games. The high-profile of the duel won’t allow him to rest this time. These points are important down the road.
LCM: Toni Kroos
His coach has reiterated how important he is. He’s very fresh and the team can’t afford not to have him at San Mamés. He must be a step ahead of the rocky midfield of Los Leones.
He moved to the center, his natural role, since Lucas Vázquez occupied the wing. Nevertheless, his performance wasn’t that great and Isco might go back to the side, a place that he’s become accustomed to.
CAM: Mateo Kovačić
He was supposed to be the man to sit in for Gareth Bale, yet Isco and Lucas stopped that from happening. Testing this away at Bilbao can be dangerous, but Mateo deserves a chance to start for the first time.
LW: Cristiano Ronaldo
His magic week couldn’t end with a bang as he failed to beat Granada’s goalie. He likes to show off in hostile environments, making this the perfect motivation to keep on scoring.
ST: Karim Benzema
Acting as a true #9, he took advantage of his goal opportunities and gave Madrid their latest win. He’s not being benched anytime soon, as he has the support of his manager, unlike Jesé, his direct competitor.