Easily the stand-out fixture of the weekend is Athletic Bilbao versus Real Madrid at the new San Mames. On a footballing level, it should be a spectacle, with both teams in great form and flying high in La Liga.
This meeting too, like the ones between Barcelona and Real Madrid, is also a clash of cultures and politics. The atmosphere in Bilbao should be rocking tonight.
Los Blancos enjoyed a perfect January, winning all eight of their fixtures without conceding a goal. For that reason, they will go into tonight’s match as favourites, but it won’t be easy.
Bilbao are currently fourth in the table and are unbeaten at home in La Liga at their new ground – located right next to the iconic former San Mames stadium. They have won nine of their 11 fixtures in La Liga at home, including against Barcelona. Only Elche and Valencia left with a point. Although the hosts lost to Atletico de Madrid on Wednesday night in the Copa del Rey, they come into the game on the back of three straight wins in La Liga.
Although they have a big derby meeting in the Copa del Rey in three days time, Ancelotti is likely to name an unchanged side for the third match in a row. Gareth Bale is still absent through injury, so Jese is likely to keep his place in the team on the right hand side of the front three.
Athletic Bilbao: Iago; Iraola, San Jose, Laporte, Balenziaga; Iturraspe, Rico; Susaeta, Gomez, Muniain; Aduriz
Real Madrid: Lopez; Carvajal, Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo; Alonso, Modric, Di Maria; Bale, Benzema, Ronaldo