Sunday promises to be a decisive day in the destiny of this season’s La Liga title race with league leaders Real Madrid and second placed FC Barcelona both facing their most difficult away games between now and the end of the season.
Real Madrid’s 1-0 win at home to Getafe on Thursday gave them a four-point lead over Barca and that would temporarily open to seven if they win away to Athletic Club Bilbao in the San Mames Stadium.
Zinedine Zidane’s side have little time to prepare for what is likely to be an intense game and Zidane could replace Raphael Varane with Eder Militao after Varane was left groggy after taking a ball to the face on Thursday.
Fede Valverde could also be in line for a start, but Isco is likely to drop out of the side with perhaps Rodrygo given a start against a rival whose two full backs like to push forward.
Athletic’s form in their last six games has taken them to the verge of a place in Europe for next season and coach Gaizka Garitano is likely to repeat the side that won in Valencia on Wednesday with Inaki Williams and Raul Garcia, who has 13 league goals this campaign, leading the attack.
A win for Madrid would mean Barca have to win away at Villarreal to keep their title hopes alive, while any other result in Bilbao would give Quique Setien’s side the chance to narrow the gap at the top of the table.
It is not a happy time at Barcelona, with rumors of a poor relationship between Setien and key players after Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at home to Atletico Madrid – a game in which Antoine Griezmann played just five minutes of injury time.
Lionel Messi will again be expected to lead from the front, despite the Argentinean playing every minute since the restart, while Luis Suarez will presumably partner him in attack.
Samuel Umtiti will be out until the end of the season, meaning Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet continue their partnership in central defense, while Sergi Roberto could start either at right back or in midfield.
Villarreal are also in fine form right now with five wins and a draw, and another win would give them a real chance of a top-four finish this season. Barca will have to beware of striker Gerard Moreno, while Santi Cazorla’s ability in midfield is something that Setien’s men seem to be missing these days. Enditem