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Bellingham set to return for Real Madrid from red-card ban to face Athletic Bilbao

Jude Bellingham is set to return for Real Madrid against Athletic Bilbao this weekend after the England midfielder missed his club’s last two games with a red-card suspension.

That combined with an ankle sprain has kept Bellingham out of four of Madrid’s last six games.

Even though he last scored for Madrid six weeks ago, Bellingham still leads the Spanish league with 16 goals after his breakout as a major scoring threat following his transfer from Borussia Dortmund.

But the competition is closing. Osasuna’s Ante Budimir has 15, along with Getafe’s now injured Borja Mayoral. Atletico Madrid’s Álvaro Morata and Girona striker Artem Dovbyk have 14 each.

Bellingham missed the last two league games for Madrid after he was red-carded for complaining after his goal was waived off for coming after the final whistle in a draw at Valencia.

Bellingham scored his 22nd goal of the season for club and country on Tuesday to rescue England a 2-2 draw against Belgium in a friendly.

While Madrid will recover its star midfielder, it will be without Vinícius Júnior as the Brazil forward serves a one-game suspension for accumulating five yellow cards.

The league resumes after an international break with Madrid leading the table by eight points over Barcelona and both sides focused on their respective high-profile Champions League quarterfinals against Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain in two weeks.

Carlo Ancelotti’s team has lost only once in 29 league games and is undefeated in 12 straight games across all competitions.

With Madrid looking unbeatable as it marches toward the Liga crown, the real fight is to decide which teams will earn the Champions League berths.

Athletic, which fields players only from or near Spain’s northern Basque Country region, is holding onto the fourth and final spot that will go to Europe’s elite competition next season.

Led by brothers Iñaki and Nico Williams, Athletic faces its toughest challenge remaining on the league calendar on Sunday when it heads to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Athletic has not won a league game at Madrid since 2005, though it managed 1-1 there last season.

Athletic visits Spain’s capital a week before its most important game of the season: The final of the Copa del Rey against Mallorca on April 6. Athletic has the second most cups in history with 23, trailing only Barcelona’s 31. But its last cup came back in 1984.

Atletico is in fifth place, one point behind Athletic, before its trip on Monday to face a Villarreal side that has won four straight in the league.

Barcelona hosts Las Palmas, which is coached by former Barcelona reserve team coach Javier García Pimienta, on Saturday.

Third-placed Girona, which had been fighting for the lead with Madrid, has stumbled of late with four losses in six rounds. The Catalan side hosts Real Betis on Sunday, two points behind Barcelona.

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