Real Madrid vs Athletic Bilbao build-up, previous line-ups & injury news:
Although the 2019/20 Copa del Rey final is yet to be contested, qualification for the Spanish Super Cup was relatively straightforward, with the two finalists going up against La Liga’s top two. Real Madrid are in the competition as defending La Liga champions, having ended a two-season drought in 2019/20, which also subsequently ended Barcelona’s recent hold on the title.
Los Blancos go into Thursday’s game in good form, unbeaten in their past nine games across all competitions, with just two draws. However, those two draws have come in the past three games against teams in the lower half of La Liga. At the weekend, 19th-placed Osasuna held Zinedine Zidane’s side to a goalless draw, preventing them from momentarily moving top of the table.
Athletic Bilbao are one of the two 2019/20 Copa del Rey finalists, set to take on rivals Real Sociedad later this year, but now have a chance to win their first trophy since the 2015 Spanish Super Cup. That year they qualified as runners up of the 2014/15 Copa del Rey, with Barcelona doing the double, and they thumped the Blaugrana 5-1 over two legs.
But Los Leones are not in good form with just three wins from their past 10 games across all competitions, and they currently sit 12th in the league, equidistance from the bottom of the table to the European places. Bilbao did have a free weekend, however, with their game against Atletico Madrid postponed due to the snowstorm in the capital.
- Real Madrid (vs Osasuna): Courtois; Vazquez, Varane, Ramos, Mendy; Modric, Casemiro, Kroos; Asensio, Benzema, Hazard.
- Athletic Bilbao (vs Barcelona): Simon; Capa, Nunez, Martinez, Berchiche; De Marcos, Vesga, Vencedor, Muniain; Williams, Garcia.
Real Madrid remain without Rodrygo and Dani Carvajal but otherwise Zidane has no big concerns with his squad. Yuri Berchiche is a doubt for Bilbao and Yeray Alvarez may also not be risked. Unai Lopez and Peru Nolaskoain are out, though,
Players to watch:
- Real Madrid: For years it felt as though Real Madrid were a bit too reliant on Cristiano Ronaldo and that seems to have transferred over to Karim Benzema now. Having been overshadowed by Ronaldo during his time in Madrid, Benzema has since reminded everyone of his world class ability since the Portuguese completed his move to Juventus. But this season it seems Los Blancos have become a bit too reliant on the Frenchman. In La Liga, Benzema has been directly involved in 13 of Real Madrid’s 30 goals, scoring eight and recording five assists. His closest teammates are Rodrygo, Lucas Vazquez, Federico Valverde and Luka Modric who have all been directly involved in just four goals. It’s something Real Madrid will need to move away from, but for now they can only hope Benzema brings his shooting boots on Thursday.
- Athletic Bilbao: It hasn’t been a good season in front of goal for Bilbao so their hopes of reaching the final may rest on the performance of Unai Simon between the sticks. The Spanish goalkeeper is in his second season as Bilbao’s No. 1 goalkeeper, replacing Iago Herrerin, and had a decent first campaign. However, something hasn’t worked out for the Spaniard this season. In La Liga, he has saved just 57.69% of the shots he has faced in 2020/21, one of the lowest save percentages in the division. Only two players with more than five appearances have a lower save percentage. Under constant pressure, Simon is one of many who will need to up their game on Thursday.
- Defending Supercopa de España holders Real Madrid qualified for the four-team 2020/21 edition as 2019/20 La Liga (LL) champions. This will be their first knockout match of any competition in the 2020/21 season, and the warm favourites will want to quickly forget their 90-minute record (W1, D1, L3) against top flight opposition in 2019/20 knockout contests.
- Real Madrid go into this semi-final off the back of a nine-game unbeaten run in all competitions (W7, D2), with some positive starts seeing them accumulate six HT leads in that period, whilst opening the scoring in the second half in two of the remaining three. A defence which has maintained six clean sheets in those nine games has contributed to all but two of them failing to clear 2.5 total goals.
- Copa del Rey finalists in 2019/20, Athletic Bilbao appear more likely to be disadvantaged by the neutral location of this tie, having failed to win their last seven LL matches away from home (D3, L4) whilst also conceding in each of their last 11 dating back to last season.
- They’re also almost certainly going to have to nullify Real Madrid’s early impact, having suffered a lacklustre 2020/21 LL record (W1, D1, L8) at all venues when conceding the opening goal of the match. Athletic are also going to have to shake off a lengthening drought against Real Madrid, completing 11 H2Hs since the start of 2015/16 without victory.
- Players to watch: Real Madrid have won all eight H2Hs in which Karim Benzema has scored. For Athletic, Iñaki Williams recently became their first player to record their opening goal thrice in 2020/21.