Real Madrid's unbeaten run plus other facts as they host Athletic Bilbao

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Real Madrid will entertain Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Zinedine Zidane‘s team are currently third in the La Liga table, with Atletico Madrid and leaders Barcelona ahead of them.

Here we take a look at some interesting stats and facts prior to the game.

– Real Madrid have failed to win in 11 different games at Santiago Bernabéu in all competitions this season (D6 L5), their worst figure in a single campaign since 1999-00 (14).

– Real Madrid are unbeaten in six La Liga home games (W5 D1), scoring 26 goals in the process (4.3 on average).

– Athletic have lost their last 12 games in a row at Santiago Bernabéu, conceding 44 goals (3.6 on average), their longest streak without collecting any points there.

– Athletic have won just one of their last seven away league games (D2 L4) but this win came on their last trip (3-1 against Villarreal).

– Athletic have won 39 points from their 32 La Liga games this season – their worst return at this stage of a season since 2012-13 (36 points).

– Raúl García has faced Real Madrid more often in La Liga without scoring than any other team (20 games).

– Gareth Bale has been involved in at least one Real Madrid goal in his last three league appearances (three goals and one assist).

– Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 16 goals in his 17 league appearances against Athletic but he has failed to score in his last three games against the Basques.

– Zinedine Zidane is unbeaten in his four managerial games against Athletic Club in La Liga (W3 D1).

– Meanwhile, Ziganda is winless versus Real Madrid in his six La Liga meetings as a manager (D1 L5).

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Barcelona squad playing for their futures and more things to look out for in final La Liga run-in

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Barcelona will have one eye on the Copa del Rey final while Europe is the main focus for Real and Atletico Madrid so what is left for La Liga?

Barca are 11 points clear at the top of the table but, with an overhaul of the squad expected in the summer, few players can afford to ease off during the run-in.

Atletico will hope to beat rivals Real to second but both teams have their priorities now in Europe, with Real facing Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals and Atleti up against Arsenal in the last four of the Europa League next week.

Sevilla face a crucial few days in their chase for European football next season while at the bottom of the table, Levante can all but secure safety with a win over Malaga.

Here are five things to look out for in the midweek fixtures in Spain:

Barca squad playing for their futures

The league title may be all but sewn up and the treble dream extinguished but Barca’s players are now playing for places, both in the short-term, for Saturday’s Copa del Rey final against Sevilla, and further ahead, to stay beyond the summer.

Andres Iniesta and Samuel Umtiti are both pondering their futures while successors, even if not replacements, need to be found for ageing stars like Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Luis Suarez.

Ousmane Dembele and Andre Gomes still have it all to prove. Fringe players are expected to be given a chance against ninth-placed Celta Vigo on Tuesday. They need to impress.

Andre Gomes 2

Bale can look to Isco for inspiration

Isco has shown the way in how to regain favour under Zinedine Zidane, the Spaniard continuing his recent surge with a goal and an assist against Malaga on Sunday. After scoring a hat-trick for Spain against Argentina, Zidane was impressed enough to start the midfielder against Juventus last week, and Gareth Bale might draw encouragement from Isco’s revival.

Bale’s strained relationship with Zidane took another turn for the worse after he was harshly hauled off at half-time against Juve but he may be given another shot against Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday.

With the first leg of the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich to come next week, Bale needs a performance.

Gareth Bale eyes the ball

Atletico juggling pursuit of Europa League glory

Atletico Madrid travel to Real Sociedad on Thursday, knowing defeat could give Barca the chance to wrap up the title in their next match against Deportivo La Coruna on April 29.

But another strong season for Atleti, in which Champions League qualification is already confirmed, can be given extra gloss if they win the Europa League.

The challenge for Diego Simeone’s paper-thin squad is to stay fresh, with the two-legged semi-final against Arsenal starting at Emirates Stadium next week. Real Sociedad may be primed to take advantage.

Atletico de Madrid

Crunch time for Sevilla

Sevilla’s season could be defined by the next five days as a trip to lowly Deportivo La Coruna on Tuesday is followed by Saturday’s Copa del Rey final.

There was no shame in their admirable Champions League run ending at the hands of Bayern last week but fail to beat Deportivo, and Sevilla may struggle to qualify for the Europa League next term, let alone the continent’s premier club competition.

A more difficult route to the Europa League would be to beat Barca and win the cup. It is time to deliver.

Steven N'Zonzi (C) celebrates a goal

Safety beckons for Levante

Levante can take a major step towards survival by beating bottom-club Malaga on Thursday. Five points separate them from 18th-placed Deportivo, meaning the gap could be stretched to eight after this round, with five games left to play.

Espanyol above them are 10 points clear of the bottom three, but Quique Sanchez Flores’ side have endured a concerning dip since the turn of the year.

They are at home to Eibar on Wednesday.

Levante

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No rest for Lionel Messi and other takeaways as Barcelona set record in Valencia win

Andy West 14/04/2018
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Barcelona bounced back from the disappointment of their midweek Champions League loss against Roma with a 2-1 home win over Valencia which sees them set a new La Liga record by registering their 39th game without defeat.

Going forward it was a much better performance than the no-show in Rome, but there were still defensive concerns as Valencia created plenty of good chances and will feel aggrieved they couldn’t snatch a point.

Valverde refuses to rotate

In the wake of Barca’s shock loss in Rome, manager Ernesto Valverde received heavy criticism for failing to regularly rotate his squad and therefore leaving key players tired in the decisive phase of the season.

But if Valverde heard that criticism he didn’t act upon it. He made just two changes from the starting line-up in Rome: one of those was enforced as Paulinho replaced the injured Ivan Rakitic, and the other was tactical as Nelson Semedo – probably the physically freshest member of the squad – dropped to the bench with Philippe Coutinho coming into midfield and Sergi Roberto moving into defence. And he again declined the opportunity to use his bench, only making his first substitution after 78 minutes.

Valverde now has to decide how many of his first-choice stars he will rest – if any – for the midweek game at Celta Vigo, which precedes the team’s first chance to secure silverware with next weekend’s Copa del Rey Final against Sevilla. Perhaps Tuesday’s trip will finally be the time when Valverde decides to give players like Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi a break.

A win…but questions remain

Barcelona will be greatly relieved to get back into winning ways and dispel the negative headlines that followed their European exit, but this was by no means a perfect performance as Valencia created enough chances to take at least a point.

Visiting boss Marcelino ruefully noted that Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen had been the home team’s best player, and Valencia striker Rodrigo will be particularly frustrated not to have scored after firing several efforts goalwards.

Barca were certainly much better going forward than they had been in midweek, with Messi and Iniesta in particular producing some excellent creative play, but Valencia were often able to overrun the midfield with Sergio Busquets regularly left outnumbered. So although it was a very good result for Barca, question marks remain.

Coutinho adds attacking intent

One option denied to Valverde in midweek was cup-tied Coutinho, who showed that he can add plenty to Barca’s Champions League challenge next season with a bright display.

The former Liverpool man produced a perfectly weighted pass to Luis Suarez for the opening goal and later delivered a pinpoint corner to the near post for Samuel Umtiti to head home the second.

He was also heavily involved in his team’s approach play, linking well with Messi and Iniesta, and fired one long-range shot narrowly wide. And although it’s still unclear exactly what his long-term role in the team will be, he has the potential to become a major asset.

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