Probably the toughest game of this season apart from games against Barcelona and Atletico Madrid for Real Madrid. Athletic Bilbao have been unbeaten this season at their home ground (even Barcelona could not get a win there) and they will look to continue with that streak especially against rivals Real Madrid.
Good news is that Barcelona lost their home game to Valencia. Messi scored but to no avail as Barcelona conceded 3 goals while scored only 2. That gives Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid a chance to go top of the league ahead of Barcelona. If Atletico Madrid win that they would take the number 1 spot on the league table regardless of what Real Madrid do in this match. But that is irrelevant at this point as Real Madrid need to win this difficult win in order to go 1 point clear of Barcelona in the title race.
Winning this away match would be anything but easy as Athletic Bilbao have punished sides with lots of goal at their home ground. The only advantage Real Madrid have got is that they have a great record against Athletic Bilbao as Real Madrid have beaten them for the past 8 meetings.
Ronaldo has scored 11 goals against them and you would not bet against him in scoring another one or two tonight against Athletic Bilbao.
Bad news is that Bale is injured. That means, one game changer out of the equation for Real Madrid. To replace him, Ancelotti can either go with Di Maria (and play Illarramendi at the back in front of the back four) or go with Jesse on the wing with Di Maria in his now usual position as a midfield player.
I would want Di Maria to be on the wings as he has got a lot of pace and that can be of great help in away games where you defend in numbers and play a counter attacking game. Illarramendi can play solid from the back and with Alonso on the field, these two can keep things organized.
Whatever the case, one thing is for certain, Real Madrid needs to win this game at all costs otherwise the title race is going to be really really tight and with Real Madrid playing Atletico Madrid away later in the season, this match could be a title decider.