After the disappointment in the game against Juventus (Juventus played a competitive game though, credit should be given where it is due). Lets discuss Real Madrid prospects in this game and analyze a few things from both sides.
One of the oldest rivalries in Spain will be reignited on Sunday, 4pm eastern time at the Santiago Bernabeu when Athletic Bilbao comes to town. This game, much like the Madrileno derbi last weekend, is steeped in tradition with these rivalry games dating back to the 1920s and 30s where Bilbao was one of the premier teams in the contry, winning Copa del Reys like it was their job. Many already know of Bilbao’s Basque-only policy, something that while noble in its focus on homegrown talent, has really hurt the team in the modern era.
Bilbao, like Barcelona and Real Madrid, has never been relegated in their existence. That is a stat that the Basques are all to proud of, and they should be, as its very difficult to go the entire span of the leagues existence without a slip-up year. One thing has to mentioned over here and that is, Atletico Bilbao came to First Division from Second Division, so they haven’t been in the First Division for as long as Real Madrid or Barcelona have been.
As I had previously mentioned, their Basque-only policy has enamored (however, this captivation hasn’t been that helpful in getting the team success at the highest level) the team to its community, and has left a prevailing sense of identity to the club, which its players fiercely defend. So many great Basque players have represented Bilbao, as well as Spain’s national team, and so many of those great Basque players never wanted to leave their team despite offers from other, more high profile clubs. Which of course has been one of the reasons that Atletic Bilbao weren’t able to build a reputation equal to Real Madrid’s throughout the world.
But while my adoration for the club is one thing, they are in fact a rival like Barcelona or Atletico Madrid (While they may not be as formidable an opponent as Barcelona, No one should be taken for granted as the injury plagued Juventus showed Real Madrid) Basque separatist politics often comes to the forefront when the team takes on Real, a symbol of the united state.
The modern era has taken away some of the tension from this derby (or at least it looks so), especially at the Bernabeu, where most of the cosmopolitan crowd has lost touch with the past. But this game still has significance, and Real Madrid will be on the field to win it for their fans, not just for the 3 points (which should be the bigger motivation factor).
Atheltic Bilbao Team News:
I gleaned a few things (from some sources), one of which were that the match referee will be Alfonso Alvarez Izquierdo, from Barcelona. He has officiated 4 games so far this season, and has done a decent enough job though the mere mention of Real Madrid could change his behavior if you know what I mean.
I also learned that Javi Martinez and Joseba Exteberria have fully recovered from their injuries and will be fit for selection on Sunday. Ander Murillo is still out with a hernia, and a youth team member has joined the squad and played against Barca at left back, Mikel Balenziaga, and did quite well.
I don’t know if he will retain his spot against Real, but I don’t see why not, as Ander Murillo is still out. His central defensive partners are Amorebieta and Aitor Ocio, the one with the strange hair cut.
Real Madrid News:
The good news is that Guti and Diarra are back, not in the ideal condition fitness wise but it will certainly help. We lost De La Red at a very crucial time and so our midfield was playing like kids against Juventus with no positional sense. Gago should be given a rest, I think he did not impress against Juventus and is certainly not as effective as Diarra in breaking up attacks though I think he is better than Diarra in 1v1 situations.
Sniejder cannot do Diarra’s job as Sniejder is an attacking midfielder. Lets just hope Schuster doesn’t assign him that role again. That would be a mistake.
Gago did very well against Atletico,buthe was underwhelming against Juventus. Then again, he did not have much help, when Sneijder and VdV looked so incompatible as midfield partners, despite their excellence for their national team.
There has been a lot of talk about the performances of Pepe, Gago and Sergio Ramos. Sergio Ramos was terrible against Juventus. In one attack I saw him making a forward run from the left flank. Lollz. Such incompetance. Sergio Ramos is one of the better players in Real Madrid squad but he disappointed against Juventus. Strangely enough, Ramos gives out his best performance whenever he comes back from International duty, after that he just , sort of like detoriates.
His performances has been similar to Casillas’s, erratic at best. Casillas shouldn’t be given that much blame though because I think Casillas has shown his worth over the past half a decade with his consistent performances, so he should be over looked for his inconsistencies.
I feel for Iker, he isn’t actually playing that bad. But his defense isn’t doing him any favors either.
Sergio Ramos doesn’t look like he is commited enough. Seems like he is thinking about something else during matches. May be interest from Milan and Manchester City is hindering is concentration, disabling to perform at high levels throughout the whole match. Gago also isn’t playing very well either. He is good with the ball. But when Real Madrid loose posession, everything starts to fall, but that is not the only part of our game that is suffering at the moment.
When we didn’t have the ball, he was less impressive. Although he had little help, Diarra often does not either, and he marshals the midfield 9 times out of 10. Gago was soundly beaten by Sisokko, while Nedved was allowed far too much space because Gago could not keep a tab on any one player. I think the Juventus match’s magnitude got to his nerves.
Anyway, I think Real Madrid will have to be a lot sharper against Bilbao than they were against Juventus. Bilbao is going to camp in their own goal and will wait for opportunities to arise and will counter attack.