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FC Barcelona's Next La Liga Opponent: Jornada 17 – Real Sociedad S.A.D Scouting Report & Key Battles

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Hello and welcome to the scouting report and key battles weekly column! This week’s edition will take a closer look at Real Sociedad’s transfers, form, strategy, a few things you (probably) didn't know about the club, predicted line-up and key battles.

David Ramos/Getty Images

All eyes are on David Moyes, no question about it. He is looking to make loan signings in order to improve the squad, with the likes of Adnan Januzaj, Emre Can, Mohamed Salah and Arouna Kone already having been linked with a move to San Sebastian. If interested, you can read more on it here and here.

Furthermore, check out this article by Guillem Balague which impressively highlights Real Sociedad's frailties and also this article by Lee Roden on La Real's star man, Carlos Vela (who is by the way doubtful for Sunday evening's  match, meaning even if he plays, he won't be at 100%).

Transfers

It's fair to say that Real Sociedad's summer transfer window wasn't of the required level, with the quality of the players who departed not being adequately replaced with the arrivals.

Real Sociedad's big signing was Alfred Finnbogason from SC Hereneveen for £7,04 million, yet he hasn't completed a single goal or assists in 11 league appearances so far. They have also signed the instrumental Esteban Granero from QPR for £3,52 million.

Real Sociedad have also made a free signing in Raul Navas from Eibar, as well as promoting Jon Gaztañaga and Joseba Zaldua. They have also brought in Iñaki Urkizu from Sestao River and loaned in Gerónimo Rulli from Estudiantes.

Real Sociedad haven't had too many departures but a few of them have been high-profile ones. None more so than Antoine Griezmann, who left to Atletico Madrid for a whooping £26,40 million. Claudio Bravo, of course, left to Barcelona for £10.56 million and Haris Seferovic to Frankfurt for £2,82 million.

Iñaki Urkizu and Raul Navas were subsequently loaned out, whilst Diego Ifrán and Liassine Cadamuro were too. Javi Ros and Mikel Abaroa left on a free transfer.

Form

Real Sociedad's start to the season was appalling with only one win (incidentally, against Real Madrid) in ten, with the vast majority being losses. They then sacked Jagoba Arrasate and beat Atletico Madrid whilst being manager-less. David Moyes was subsequently brought in and they are still inconsistent, but a 4-0 demolition by Villarreal aside, La Real have played well and drawn more games than anything else.

Strategy

Real Sociedad are very strong at creating long shot opportunities and coming back from losing opportunities. They are also strong at attacking set-pieces, attacking down the wings and aerial duels.

La Real also have weaknesses. They are weak at avoiding offsides and defending against skilful players. In addition, they are very weak at defending against attacks down the wings and defending against long shots.

In terms of style of play, Real Sociedad like to attack down the right with the very dangerous Carlos Vela, attempt crosses often, take long shots, play with width, rotate their first eleven and play non-aggressive (stats courtesy of WhoScored).

Real Sociedad have started with a 4-2-3-1 formation in all matches this season except from 3, so unless David Moyes goes with a 4-4-2, that will be the formation of choice.

A Few Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Real Sociedad S.A.D

The Libero Guide writes: "Champions League competitors for the second time in ten years in 2013-14, Real Sociedad have a past as grand as their name: ‘Royal Society'. Representing the equally grand Basque resort of San Sebastián, Real Sociedad gained their regal title a year after being formed in 1909. Their club was comprised of sport-focused sons of wealthy locals educated in England, their first president classics professor Adolfo Sáenz-Alonso.

In sundry regional competitions, Real Sociedad built rivalries with Bilbao, Arenas de Getxo and Real Unión de Irún. These four became founding members of the Spanish League, a Basque initiative instigated in 1927 by Getxo director José María Atxa.

Sociedad became Donostia under the 1931 Republican government, before reverting to Real Sociedad under Franco in 1939. Until the dictator's death in 1975, the Txuri-urdin (‘White and Blues') drifted between mid-table Primera and Segunda. A year after Franco's funeral, at the seminal Derbi Vasco in San Sebastián, Bilbao and Sociedad captains walked out bearing the previously banned ikurriña, the Basque flag.

Within ten years, each club twice won the league. Behind Sociedad's success was Basque-born coach Alberto Ormaetxea, a Sociedad player for over a decade. A strong defence backed by locally born goalkeeper Luis Arconada had allowed Sociedad to claim runners-up spot in 1980. A year later, another meager goals-against tally allowed Sociedad to pip Real Madrid to the title, both clubs equal on points.

In September 1989, the day after scoring for Liverpool at Anfield, prolific goalscorer John Aldridge signed for Sociedad, breaking the club's non-Basque policy. His successful first season encouraged Dalian Atkinson to follow him. European success, though, eluded Sociedad. Some attribute the decline to the move from the intimate Atxoxa Stadium out to the newly built Anoeta, in 1993.

It was another foreign striker, Darko Kovacevic, who led Sociedad in their next memorable league campaign, the third-place finish of 1998. Linking with Nihat Kahveci and young attacking midfielder Xabi Alonso, in 2002-03 Kovacevic helped Sociedad to a convincing title challenge. This time, it was Real Madrid who stole in on the last day.

Despite a creditable debut in the Champions League, losing to Lyon after the group stage, Sociedad then dropped back, selling Alonso to Liverpool.

After a brief spell in the Segunda, Sociedad surprised many with a fourth-placed finish in 2013, driven by San Sebastián-born captain Xabier Prieto, a veteran of the Alonso era. Thanks to goals from ex-Arsenal striker Carlos Vela, Sociedad overcame Lyon to make the Champions League 2013-14.

Despite a win-less campaign, players such as forward Antoine Griezmann and keeper Claudio Bravo impressed enough to be sold on in the close season. But this has allowed the likes of David Zurutuza to shine, most notably for his man-of-the-match performance for Sociedad to reverse a 0-2 scoreline and beat a moneyed Real Madrid 4-2 early in the 2014-15 campaign."

Predicted Line-up

Enaut Zubikarai may start in goal if he manages to recover from flu. If he doesn't, Rulli will deputise once again. With first and second-choice Joseba Zaldua and Carlos Martinez, respectively, out according to Marca, there is no established right-back to start. I therefore predict that left-footed Yuri Berchiche, will start (I could be completely wrong) alongside the centre-back pairing of Inigo Martinez and Ion Ansotegi. Alberto de la Bella will start at left-back.

Markel Bergara and Esteban Granero will start as part of the double-pivot. Carlos Vela is doubtful to make it, and it's a shame because he is really a joy to behold when in top form. David Zurutuza is out. In their possible absences, Xabi Prieto could play as the right-winger, Sergio Canales in the centre and Pablo Hervias on the left.

The striker position will be between Imanol Agirretxe and Alfred Finnbogason, with the former recovering from a hamstring strain, I doubt he'll be risked.

Possible XI (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Berchiche, Martinez, Ansotegi, de la Bella; Bergara, Granero; Prieto, Canales, Hervias; Finnbogason

Key Battles

Ability to break down v A compact defence: Real Sociedad's defence will try to stay as compact as possible, but as WhoScored and Guillem Balague highlighted, the defence isn't the best and it may therefore be in their best interests to attack at every opportunity. Barcelona struggled against Getafe but with Neymar back and with them being fresh off the break, they should be able to score.

Counter-attack v High defensive line: Even though they haven't scored from one, Real Sociedad's counter attack is fairly good, but they will be largely inhibited if Carlos Vela is missing. They will therefore know that they will in all likelihood get a one or two good chances against Barcelona. If it's anything like last year's horror show for Barcelona in losing 3-1 at the Anoeta, La Real could prosper. This is because Barcelona have made a habit of making individual (and collective) errors a few times in most games. Barcelona's high defensive line will therefore need to be fully focused at all times if they are to keep a clean-sheet. Yet reality is that Barcelona are stronger than last season and Real Sociedad weaker.

Set-pieces v Set-pieces: How will the two teams fare in set-pieces? Real Sociedad have scored 3 goals from set-pieces according to Squawka, whilst Barcelona have scored 5 (excluding direct free-kicks).

Complacency v Hunger: Both teams are really in no position to lose. Both teams should be hungry for the win, but you never know how teams return after a break.

Final Thoughts

I'm not sure if Barcelona will be able to keep a clean sheet considering that they haven't won at the Estadio Anoeta since a 2-0 victory in 2007 and that both teams have scored in eight of the last nine meetings between the two sides. I'll provisionally predict a 2-1 win to Barcelona.

There is a lot to respect about Real Sociedad. I therefore wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, I'm currently working on my most comprehensive football-related article for Barca Blaugranes yet, it should be published within the next couple of weeks, so watch out for that. And let me know if you enjoy reading those types of articles once you've read it!

Thank you for reading, take care and goodbye until next time!