FC Barcelona will be aiming to return to winning ways tomorrow, when they host Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou in the first-leg of the Blaugrana’s Copa del Rey semi-final. Following the disappointment of losing top spot in La Liga courtesy of the weekend’s shocking 3-2 defeat to Valencia CF, Barcelona are under pressure to secure a result tomorrow evening and will surely be thankful for the relative ease of their draw. After all, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid will square off in the other semi-final – both clubs would surely pose a tougher threat than Sociedad.
However, the Basque side are a more than competent outfit and it would be naive to right them off simply because they are not Real, or Atletico Madrid. On the other hand, on the basis of the weekend’s results, they aren’t even close to their level. On Sunday, Atleti brought Real Sociedad’s five game unbeaten streak to an emphatic end, cruising to a superb 4-0 win to move into top spot.
Can Barcelona dream of a similar result tomorrow, a result that would certainly boost morale after a difficult week? Or will Jagoba Arrasate’s side inflict another surprise result on the Blaugrana with a good performance of their own?
Gerardo Martino has named all available players in a 22-man squad for tomorrow’s match, leaving himself plenty of options to choose his starting line-up from. The likes of Isaac Cuenca and Ibrahim Afellay are included for example, although chances are that both will be cut from the squad before kick-off. However, the returning Martin Montoya and Carles Puyol could both make the final matchday squad, or even start depending on Martino’s personal preference.
Does he opt to send a message with a strong team selection, or will he rotate the squad, ringing the changes after that disappointing loss? I think he’ll go for a mixture of the two; Jose Manuel Pinto will replace Victor Valdés in goal after a less than convincing display from the Catalan in Saturday’s loss while Jordi Alba will probably keep his place in defense given that he is suspended for La Liga action following his red card.
Adriano Correia could slot in at right-back with Marc Bartra and Javier Mascherano my picks to start in the centre of defense. Sergio Busquets in my opinion should continue at pivote, but may be rested with Alex Song ready to step in if necessary. Xavi may start given that he sat out the final stages of Saturday’s defeat, with Andrés Iniesta likely to return to the starting line-up for the second time in a week.
Lionel Messi will lead the attack having finally broken his La Liga goalscoring drought, although improvement is still required, or more accurately, expected from the Argentine forward. And the same can be said of Alexis Sánchez and Pedro Rodriguez, even if the pairing have been in good form this season. Will both start? I have a feeling Cristian Tello will get the nod, with Pedro in support.
New signing Sergio Canales could be in line to make his Sociedad debut tomorrow evening after signing from La Liga rivals Valencia in the January transfer window, but Antoine Griezmann and Carlos Vela undoubtedly remain the Basque side’s key players. However, the Frenchman has been used sparingly in this competition and may not be guaranteed a starting berth.
Real Sociedad: WDWWWL
FC Barcelona 4-1 Real Sociedad – 24th September 2013 – La Liga
Neymar’s first La Liga goal for the club sent Barcelona on their way to a surprisingly comfortable win against their Basque visitors who grabbed a second-half consolation through Alberto De La Bella.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Pinto; Adriano, Bartra, Mascherano, Alba; Song, Xavi, Iniesta; Tello, Messi, Pedro
Real Sociedad (4-2-3-1): Zubikarai; Zaldua, Inigo, Mikel, Angel; Elustondo, Ros; Vela, Prieto, Castro; Seferovic
Barça will either respond in style, or falter once again. As I’m an optimist, I’m predicting it will be the former: 3-1 Barça win.
- FC Barcelona News: 4 February 2014; Barça Appeal Jordi Alba Red Card, 22 in Squad to Face La Real
- FC Barcelona News: 3 February 2014; Atletico Madrid Take Over La Liga Lead, Adama Traore Leads Barça B to Win
- FC Barcelona News: 2 February 2014; Barca Stumble to Surprising Defeat, Two Players Pick Up Suspensions
- Broken Bad: FC Barcelona Breaks against Valencia
- La Liga: FC Barcelona 2-3 Valencia CF: Match Review