Athletic Club look to tighten up at the back to receive Real Madrid

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-14 18:27:15|Editor: mmm
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MADRID, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Real Madrid face another tough test as they adapt to life under new coach Julen Lopetegui as they visit Athletic Club Bilbao's San Mames Stadium on Saturday night.

Madrid travel with three wins from three matches and don't appear to have suffered following the sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus: indeed Ronaldo's departure seems to have brought the best out Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema, who have scored seven goals between them, while Marco Asensio produced an outstanding performance for Spain against Croatia on Tuesday night.

Lopetegui should have all squad available for the trip to Bilbao and will include recent signing Mariano Diaz, who arrived just before the transfer deadline at the end of August.

Thibaut Courtois will almost certainly continue in goal after replacing Keylor Navas in the last game before the international break, while Lopetegui will probably maintain his first choice defense of Dani Carvajal, Serio Ramos, Rafael Varene and Marcelo, although the fact Madrid debut in the Champions League next week may give Alvaro Odriozola the chance at right back.

Athletic didn't play the weekend before the international break when their trip to face Rayo Vallecano was cancelled due to the state of Rayo's Vallecas Stadium.

That means it will be 19 days since they last had a competitive game, which is hardly ideal at this stage of the season as they attempt to adapt to the tactics of new coach Eduardo Berizzo.

The former Celta and Sevilla boss has placed a focus on high-pressure and possession, but has so far used a system with just one holding midfielder (Dani Garcia) which has left Athletic looking vulnerable when they are under counter-attack.

Injuries to central defender Inigo Martinez and striker Aritz Aduriz have not helped, although both could re-appear on Saturday, but if Leganes and Huesca made Athletic suffer on the break, Bale and Asensio could have a field day and Berizzo could draft in Mikel Rico to help cover spaces ahead of the defense.