San Mamés without the presence of Ronaldo
San Mamés will open its gates to welcome Madrid, amounting to an evening of excitement and emotion. For time immemorial nothing has stoked up San Mamés quite like Real Madrid coming to town, although this time around there is something missing – Cristiano. As in practically every other ground, the Portuguese striker was on the end of boos and whistles, mostly due to his air of haughtiness, and everyone will now be wondering when the next villain will step forward. For Athletic it’s their third game of the season, and, oddly enough, the third in San Mamés. Los Leones have hosted Leganés and Huesca, because El Alcoraz wasn’t ready in time, and were due to travel down to Vallecas but the game was postponed because of the dilapidated state of Rayo’s Estadio de Vallecas.
So it’s Athletic’s third game of home comforts and no road travel, but this game is one that is eagerly awaited, even more so after the Vallecas delay and the international break – Los Leones will be champing at the bit after three weeks off. However, their crisis in goal is yet to be resolved, and Remiro continues to dig in his heels while Herrerín is unwilling to rush his recovery from injury. Unai Simón is set to get the nod after the young keeper was brought back from Elche to cover the crisis-gap and has so far been up to the task, although he will receive a sterner test this evening from Madrid’s new-lease-of-life attack. Despite being without Cristiano, Bale and Benzema look sharper and more focused, not to mention Asensio’s left foot sledgehammer, which will still have Croatia breaking out in a cold sweat.
Madrid squad and Miami
For Madrid this is the first game of substance after kicking off the season against lower pedigree teams, in which they clocked up three wins to boost the morale that had been sapped by that heavy defeat in the Super Cup. Casemiro might be one absentee after falling prey to the FIFA virus, but a bigger worry will be Marcelo and the threat posed by Williams down that flank. As per usual, Lopetegui is yet to submit his first eleven, although he was forthcoming on Friday in discussing another issue: he is not in favour of Barcelona’s ‘visit’ to Girona in Miami instead of Montilivi; something which is difficult to refute.