When Real Madrid last went to play Athletic Bilbao at the San Mames, a stylish 3-0 win sealed their 32nd La Liga triumph while the Basque side were preparing for a Europa League final appearance.
This time around, Madrid will be the ones more concerned with their European adventures as Marcelo Bielsa’s men are currently doing nothing more than going through the motions until the end of the season.
Even Lionel Messi’s ongoing hamstring problem has done little to dissuade anyone that Barca will still stroll to the title, but the gap hasn’t inhibited Los Blancos in the past few weeks as they’ve chalked up seven wins from their last eight league games.
Jose Mourinho is likely to freshen things up from the side which lost at Galatasaray in midweek and he’ll need to shuffle his pack accordingly to make sure everyone is in optimum condition to take on Borussia Dortmund in ten days’ time.
But Bielsa has plenty of his own injury and suspension worries and I think that will swing the balance even further Madrid’s way.
Los Leones’ trim squad will be without a host of names for the visit of the reigning champions, with Andoni Iraola sidelined and Carlos Gurpegui, Aymeric Laporte, Oscar de Marcos and Aritz Aduriz all suspended.
Whereas Mourinho’s starting X1 will not be discernibly weaker from the changes he makes, Athletic will be, and it’s no surprise bwin’s 3Way football betting market has Madrid as strong 9/20 favourites for another three points.
That price in itself isn’t bad for Real Madrid and regular Spanish football readers will know that you’ve often got to have a right rummage about to find anything worth having a dabble on given the usual odds on Los Galacticos.
For what it’s worth, Athletic are 21/4 for the win with the draw at 7/2, but the starting price on Madrid means there’s plenty of top tips about for them to get the result.
Ordinarily, the San Mames is a tricky ground to go to and certainly Barcelona have had a few issues there in recent years. But Bilbao haven’t been as strong at the ‘Cathedral’ this season and Madrid are rarely inflicted by the same troubles there as Barca are.
Los Blancos have won 12 of their last 13 clashes with Bilbao and six of seven on opposition turf, so that record, coupled with Madrid’s superiority and Bilbao’s absences, means I’m going to be all over the Madridistas for this one.
If you like basing your bets on statistics, then the half-time draw/Madrid win may interest you. Bilbao have been drawing at the break in over half of their home games so far this season and have scored just six and let in eight in the opening 45 of those 15 games.
Madrid are also stronger as the game goes on, so 7/2 for the half-time draw/Madrid win isn’t a bad bit of business and that’s about as good as I think it’ll get for Bilbao.
If you do fancy Madrid, then leave the straight 9/20 result alone and dive on them with over 2.5 goals at 19/20, with Madrid and over 3.5 goals more than trebling your money at 21/10.
I suspect Real could run away with this and for that reason, them to win both halves at 12/5 looks tempting, and certainly them to score in both halves at evens is a cracker to pad out your accumulator.
Madrid have conceded in each of their last six league games and if you reckon they will do so once again, the punt of the weekend is the multiple correct score of a 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 Real win at 27/10.
New customers opening an account with bwin are entitled to a free £20 bet and sticking that on the Real multiple score will bring you in £74 if successful.
My other line of attack would be on Karim Benzema. Mourinho rotates the Frenchman with Gonzalo Higuain, and after the Argentinean started against Galatasaray, it will be the former Lyon striker’s go against Bilbao.
He’s 19/20 to score at any time, but 17/4 for first goalscorer makes sense, and if Real get going then 6/1 for Benzema to score two or more is well worth an outside dabble.
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