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Three talking points ahead of Athletic Club vs Real Madrid



Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images

Real Madrid will face the grind in their upcoming games as they play Athletic Club, Atletico Madrid, and Real Sociedad in a span of nine days. The defending La Liga champions must quickly amend their poor form, for they are already chasing a deficit in the title race.

They first travel to Bilbao where they cross swords with Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Club at San Mames tomorrow. The Basque side sit in eighth place on the La Liga table, having won seven of their seventeen games so far.

Athletic Club have been desolate since their return to La Liga after the international break, dropping five points in just three games. As they look to stop the bleeding and solidify as a unit, Real Madrid must put their best foot forward to win a second consecutive away game across all competitions.

Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Athletic Club vs Real Madrid.

1. The happy hangover

As the Real Madrid players walked into the tunnel at half-time against Villarreal, heads bowed down in shame, one felt that the team was broken mentally. Even in their most desperate attempt to come out of the vicious cycle, they were trapped in, Los Blancos were staring down at a two-goal deficit in just 45 minutes.

The events of the dressing room over the next fifteen minutes remain unknown, but the response that followed was ground-breaking.

As if unperturbed by their poor form, Real Madrid returned to the field with real purpose. They only left the field 44 minutes later with the Yellow Submarines’ blood on their hands.

Vinicius Jr, Eder Militao, and Dani Ceballos helped the visitors complete an improbable comeback at La Ceramica to break the curse that had held them for close to six years.

Now free from the shackles of negativity and the pressure of the media, the Merengues will hope to return to their imperial best.

One good result is usually all it takes for Real Madrid to flip the switch and turn up the heat. Three difficult fixtures lie ahead on the calendar, and it will be vital for them to maintain a winning streak.

2. Keeping up with the Catalans

Real Madrid are trailing Barcelona by three points (Photo by GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images)

Three points separate Real Madrid and Barcelona at the apex of the La Liga standings. While a single matchday could see that gap annulled in theory, it could pan out to be a long and dreaded waiting game for Ancelotti’s men.

Barcelona have seemingly hit their peak form at the right time and are riding high on confidence. The Catalans have taken down both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in their last four games and slammed five past AD Ceuta earlier this week.

For Los Blancos to catch up on the league standings, Barcelona must drop points. Until such a golden opportunity arises, however, the men in white will be under constant pressure to maintain the uniform gap and prevent it from widening.

The defending champions have been relatively slack in La Liga recently, and the situation is worrying. Having dropped seven points in a span of just five games, they have shot themselves in the foot.

Every game in La Liga now no longer comes with the cushion a league game promises. One slip-up could be the difference between winning or losing the title, and it is high time Ancelotti & co. come to terms with the same.

3. Payback at San Mames

The last time Real Madrid and Athletic Club faced off at San Mames was the quarter-final of last season’s Copa del Rey.

Ancelotti’s men bore the favourites tag as they walked into the stadium against one of La Liga’s finest teams. What followed in the next ninety minutes is a story no Real Madrid player would wish to recall.

Despite having close to 60% of the possession against Athletic Club, the men in white were suppressed in attack and exploited in defence. The hosts had a whopping 15 shots on target including eight blocked shots as opposed to Real Madrid’s seven and four respectively.

Wave after wave of Basque attack tormented the Merengues‘ defence and the fortress eventually collapsed painfully in the penultimate minute of the game.

With seconds to go on the clock in regulation time, Alex Berenguer got onto the end of Mikel Vesga’s ball and put it past Thibaut Courtois to eliminate the favourites from the cup.

Real Madrid have a chance to avenge their painful defeat when they face off against Ernesto Valverde’s men at the same venue on Sunday. Coming off a win at one of Spain’s most difficult stadiums, they will look to conquer another well-reputed fortress, this time in the Basque region.

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Real Madrid vs Athletic Club: End of an era, farewells, tight race for second place



Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images

Real Madrid will walk down the tunnel of Santiago Bernabeu one last time this season on Sunday night. The men in white are pitted against Athletic Club on their final match-day, and the game will not be an easy affair by any means.

The Basque side sit in seventh place on the league standings with 50 points in 37 appearances. However, their qualification for the UEFA Conference League is in danger with Osasuna lurking close behind with an equal number of points.

Anything less than a win could prove insufficient for the visitors and it is clear that they arrive at Santiago Bernabeu with nothing less than a win on their agenda. Madrid Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Real Madrid vs Athletic Club Bilbao.

1. The end of an era for the number 9 shirt?

Photo by Florencia Tan Jun/Getty Images

The grey area around Karim Benzema’s future has only widened in recent days. From a situation where his continuity at Real Madrid was taken for granted, it did not take long for the Frenchman’s story to enter a steep deviation.

An economically tempting proposal from Saudi Arabia had Benzema seriously contemplating a move away from Santiago Bernabeu, and reports stated that his departure from the Spanish club was close to complete.

The world, thus, looked in anticipation of his next official interaction with the media. The Ballon d’Or winner publicly addressed the topic for the first time earlier this week, and it is safe to say that his words gave nothing away.

Benzema neither confirmed nor completely refuted the rumours of his exit to the media. His situation is balanced on the blade of a knife and could tip in either direction.

In that sense, there is a good chance that tomorrow’s clash at Santiago Bernabeu is Karim Benzema’s final game for Real Madrid. If the striker does choose to change loyalties, it would mark the end of an era for the team’s number nine position.

It has been over a decade since the Frenchman took over the prestigious kit. He has played 647 games for the club so far in his career, scoring a stunning 353 goals in the process. Of them, 98 have been match-winning contributions.

2. A day of farewells

Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Earlier today, Real Madrid announced the departure of Marco Asensio from the club. The Spanish winger appears set to sign for PSG for the 2023-24 season and will bid adieu on Sunday. However, he will not be the only player playing his final game for the club tomorrow.

Nacho Fernandez has been a critical part of Real Madrid’s success in recent years but is another name close to sealing an exit. The defender is not satisfied with the playing time under his belt at the club and has not yet responded to the renewal offer on his table.

With his contract running out in less than 30 days, he appears closer to leaving than staying. One can expect an announcement from Nacho on Sunday night after the game at the Bernabeu, which could be his final game in white.

The situation with Dani Ceballos is quite similar. The Spanish midfielder is still undecided on his future, although there is still a slight chance he could continue at the club. Staying on the subject of players making their final appearance, however, he could be one on the list.

Away from the stories of incomplete renewal negotiations, Mariano Diaz is one player whose departure from the club is confirmed. Ferland Mendy, Jesus Vallejo, Alvaro Odriozola and Eden Hazard are some of the other candidates well-placed to make departures, although nothing can be said for sure.

3. A tight race for second place

Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

There is not much to play for on Sunday night except for the emotional tag of it being the season’s final game. Yet, the men in white will not be without an objective against Athletic Club.

Los Blancos sit on 77 points in 37 league appearances this season and just have a one-point lead over third-placed Atletico Madrid. Needless to say, they must be vary of their position on the standings for any complacency could see them drop down the ladder.

Diego Simeone’s men take on fifth-placed Villarreal at the same time as Real Madrid’s game against Athletic Club. Even if Carlo Ancelotti’s men settle for a draw against the Basque side, the second place would be Atletico Madrid’s to lose.

With both games kicking off simultaneously, there will be nerves throughout the ninety minutes in Madrid. One can only hope for action-filled games to keep the anxiety and adrenaline high.

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