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Real Madrid could deepen Athletic Bilbao's crisis in La Liga

IANS  |  Madrid 

Real Madrid travel to crisis-hit Athletic Club Bilbao on Saturday night, looking to keep in competition at the La Liga table with FC Barcelona and second-placed Valencia.

The match between Athletic Club and Real Madrid in the San Mames Stadium in Bilbao kicks off around six hours after Barcelona's game at home against Celta Vigo finishes. So Zinedine Zidane-coached Real Madrid could start 11 points behind the league leaders, reports Xinhua news agency.

However, if an improving Celta are able to take points from Barcelona, that will allow them to edge closer than the eight points that currently separate them from the Catalans.

Welsh forward Gareth Bale, who was influential as Madrid drew 2-2 against third tier Fuenlabrada in the King's Cup on Wednesday, will again miss out due to a minor injury. But defender Sergio Ramos is likely to play wearing a specially designed face mask to protect the broken nose he suffered in the Madrid derby two weeks ago.

Real Madrid are still struggling for form as shown in their midweek draw and the problems they had in defeating Malaga last weekend.

However, those problems are nothing compared to Athletic Club, who descended into crisis after losing 0-1 at home versus lowly Formentera on Wednesday and crashed out of the Cup.

The defeat has placed coach Jose Angel 'Kuko' Ziganda on the ropes and the former striker who spent six seasons as B-team coach could be just a heavy defeat away from the sack.

Ziganda reserved players such as Mikel Rico, Markel Susaeta, Raul Garcia, Ander Iturraspe and Mikel Balenziaga out in midweek and they will all return against Madrid, as will veteran striker Aritz Aduriz.

But he is still without injured playmakers Benat and Iker Muniain, while Oscar de Marcos is a doubt with a tie injury and Aymeric Laporte is suspended.

There is no doubt that players, coach and fans will look for a reaction to Wednesday's humiliation. But patience is running out and a heavy defeat could mean the ground nicknamed 'The Cathedral' by home fans could witness the scene, not for celebrations, but for a funeral with Ziganda the man to be buried.

--IANS

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(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, December 01 2017. 19:00 IST
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