The league leaders were held to a draw last time out due to a late Real Madrid equaliser, while Athletic have built a strong run of form recently, going five top-flight games without a defeat.
Diego Simeone’s men had a crucial game on Sunday when they hosted one of their title rivals – and city neighbours – Real Madrid in La Liga action.
Luis Suarez gave them the perfect start with a goal in the 15th minute, before Casemiro squared the ball for Karim Benzema to smash home a late equaliser for Los Blancos.
Before that, Los Colchoneros got back to winning ways in league action, defeating Villarreal 2-0 away from home thanks to an Alfonso Pedraza own goal and a second-half Joao Felix strike.
Simeone’s men now sit three points ahead of second-placed Barcelona having played a game less than Ronald Koeman’s side, with this match acting as their game in hand.
Their position at the summit of the division is largely down to a solid defensive record, as no side in the league have conceded as few as the 17 goals that the side from the capital have shipped this campaign.
While that is a trademark of a Simeone side, this season they have found a better blend of attack and defence, netting an impressive tally of 48 league goals which is only topped by Barcelona.
However, they will be hoping to put an end to a recent patch of inconsistent form which has seen them pick up just five points from their last four games, as they look to take advantage of this game in hand and go six points clear at the top of the table.
That will be a tough task as they take on an Athletic Bilbao side with some real confidence, having put together a good league run as well as advancing to the Copa del Rey final last week.
Marcelino’s side secured an important win last time out, when they welcomed 10th-placed Granada to the San Mames Stadium.
Asier Villalibre gave them an early lead, but Jorge Molina equalised for the visitors with 10 minutes to go.
The game then looked set to finish 1-1, until Alex Berenguer netted an added-time winner to seal all three points for the side from the Basque country.
Before that, Marcelino’s men triumphed in the second leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final tie, when they travelled to Levante for the away leg with the sides level at 1-1.
Roger Marti put the hosts ahead, but Raul Garcia equalised for Athletic soon after from the penalty spot, and with an aggregate score of 2-2, the game went to extra time when Berenguer scored the winner to see them through to the final.
Marcelino will have his sights set on a third consecutive victory here, as his team take on an Atleti side struggling to find consistency.