Real Madrid will be bidding to make the perfect start to their 2023-24 La Liga campaign when they head to San Mames on Saturday evening to take on Athletic Bilbao.
Los Blancos finished second in the table last season, 10 points behind the champions Barcelona, while Athletic were eighth, two points behind seventh-placed Osasuna in the race for European qualification.
Athletic have now finished eighth in La Liga in three of the last five seasons; they were two points behind Osasuna in seventh last term but nine from sixth-placed Real Betis, and the team have serious work to do in order to secure European qualification for the 2024-25 campaign.
The club’s Basque-only policy in the transfer market makes it incredibly difficult to boost their squad during each transfer window, but they have managed to bring in two players this summer in the shape of Inigo Ruiz de Galarreta from Mallorca and Javier Marton from Real Sociedad B.
Inigo Martinez has been their major departure, moving to Barcelona on a free transfer, but they have managed to keep hold of brothers Nico Williams and Inaki Williams, and the two are again likely to be vital to the team’s chances of success during the 2023-24 season.
Athletic will enter this match off the back of a 1-1 draw with Manchester United in Dublin last weekend, with the friendly rounding off their preparations for the new campaign.
Ernesto Valverde’s side have not actually beaten Real Madrid in La Liga since March 2015, which is extremely worrying, but they did manage to hold Los Blancos to a 1-1 draw when the two teams last locked horns on the final matchday of last season.
Real Madrid continue to be heavily linked with a certain Kylian Mbappe, and it is possible that the Frenchman will make the move to Bernabeu from Paris Saint-Germain before the end of the summer transfer window, which would be a game-changing signing.
At this stage, there have been four incomings during the current market, with Jude Bellingham, Arda Guler and Fran Garcia arriving on permanent deals, while Joselu has joined on loan from Espanyol for the new season; Brahim Diaz is also back at the club following a loan spell at AC Milan.
Real Madrid fell short in both La Liga and the Champions League last season, but they did manage to win the Copa del Rey, and it will be fascinating to see how the team perform this term without Karim Benzema, who surprisingly ended his time at the club to move to Saudi Arabia.
The Whites finished last season 10 points behind Barcelona in La Liga, and they will be aware of the importance of making a fast start, with the two Clasico rivals set to lock horns for the title once again.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side have been lining up with a new formation during pre-season, but they have only played four friendlies, beating AC Milan and Manchester United before losing to Barcelona and Juventus.
Athletic Bilbao friendly form:
Real Madrid friendly form:
We say: Athletic Bilbao 1-2 Real Madrid
Real Madrid have not lost at San Mames in La Liga since March 2015, winning on their last four visits to the stadium in Spain’s top flight. There have been some teething problems for Los Blancos during pre-season in terms of their new formation, but we are backing Ancelotti’s side to navigate their way to all three points.