Athletic Bilbao vs Real Madrid: Three things that will shape the outcome

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Real Madrid have started this particular La Liga campaign in fine style.

Rafael Benitez was being castigated as an overly defensive manager before a ball had even been kicked and whilst it's true that Los Blancos have been immaculate at the back, they've been just as good going forward.

12 goals scored is the best return in the league so far and they remain the only team yet to concede.


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All is extremely rosy in the garden and Benitez will be hoping the status quo continues after a trip to the New San Mames.

Let's take a look at three things that could shape the outcome of this one...

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Rapid Ronaldo

The Portuguese doesn't do things by halves does he?! Just two more goals here and he will have broken Raul's all-time goalscoring record, a stated aim of his upon signing in 2009.

To put the feat into some kind of perspective, if Raul were still playing now, he could carry on playing every match until 2024 and still wouldn't have the same goals to games ratio as Ronaldo.

Once broken, it will have taken Ronaldo six years to get to the top of the pile. It took Raul 16.

It shouldn't author Real's entire game plan because Benitez simply won't allow it, but not breaking the mark in front of his own fans against Granada was clearly a source of immense irritation for the player.

He'll want to get that particular monkey off of his back in double-quick time. Starting in the Basque country.

Bogey ground?

The new San Mames remains a venue that is yet to be conquered by Real Madrid.

In their two visits so far a draw and a loss have been the outcome but the manner of both performances might well concern the club.

Not one player has performed well enough there despite being clearly the better side in terms of quality of playing staff.

Ernesto Valverde's side were head and shoulders above real on their last visit, Aritz Aduriz was too. His towering header won the Basques a hotly-contested game that left the locals in rapture.

Despite not starting the league season quite as well as Valverde and his team might have hoped, a 4-0 Spanish Supercup win over Barcelona shows that they can still mix it with the big boys when needs be.

Could Real be heading for an unwanted hat-trick? 

Real Injury concerns

Real do have real injury concerns leading into this one.

Danilo, James Rodriguez, Gareth Bale and Sergio Ramos remain sidelined and it's perhaps a legitimate reason why Granada were only overcome by a single goal last time out.

In Isco particularly, Benitez does have high-quality replacements but there's little doubting that when your first-choice players are not available to you, it does upset the equilibrium of the side.

A solid, if not outstanding away performance is a must here.

Ernesto Valverde has injury problems of his own but will have realised his own error in team selection against Villarreal and won't make the same mistake again.

Sending out his strongest possible XI to neutralise Real's omnipresent threat, and hopefully therefore eradicating the expected onslaught, is a given.

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La Liga
Athletic Bilbao
Real Madrid

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