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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad: Match Preview

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A preview of Barcelona's La Liga clash with Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou

David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelina will be looking to extend their recent run of good form tomorrow and secure their sixth consecutive victory in all competitions when they welcome Real Sociedad to the Camp Nou for Saturday’s early afternoon kick-off. The Blaugrana currently hold a five point lead at the top of the table courtesy of their thrashing of arch rivals Real Madrid last weekend and a win against the struggling Basque Country outfit would see them extend that gap to eight points, albeit temporarily.

But, with Real Madrid generally reeling and facing a tough trip to face SD Eibar, while second place Atletico Madrid also face a potentially tricky test at home to RCD Espanyol, who knows whether that extended lead could stick after all. Certainly, Luis Enrique must be feeling confident regarding his side’s chances tomorrow; their decimation of Real Madrid was a joy to behold, and the footballing masterclass only continued in midweek with a humbling of AS Roma.

So, what chance does Real Sociedad stand, particularly given their start to the season?

Roughly 10 and a half months ago, Real Sociedad welcomed the Blaugrana to the Anoeta, and under the guidance of a somewhat stubborn and archaic Scottish manager, they upset all the odds to claim all three points against FC Barcelona. Luis Enrique’s fate hung in the balance, star players were reportedly unhappy; the rest, as they say, is history.

Barcelona rebounded from that defeat to not only take La Liga by storm, but take the entire footballing world by the throat. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Atletico Madrid, Real Madrid; no matter the opposition, Barcelona grew stronger with every match and consistently emerged not only victorious, but dominant. The successes in these matches built the foundations for a historic treble, and now, Enrique’s side appear to be climbing to an ever higher level.

Truly, we cannot overstate just how impressive Barca have been in the past two matches; it’s been Harlem Globetrotter-esque at times; but we aren’t playing the Washington Generals in a fixed match, we’re playing real teams in real matches and just making them look… well, stupid. And who better to halt the Blaugrana juggernaut than, Eusebio?

Yep, that’s right. The same guy who coached Barcelona B to relegation is the man tasked with stopping them tomorrow at the Camp Nou. Admittedly, his playing staff are a little better, and far more disciplined, but it’s pretty much beside the point – this guy literally played everyone out of position on a regular basis and probably had a detrimental impact on more players than he ever helped.

Frankly, his status as a member of the Dream Team doesn’t factor into this; just because Pep Guardiola, Ronald Koeman and others have found success on the touchline, it doesn’t mean they were all given the Midas touch by Cruyff. He struggled at Celta, then struggled at Barcelona B, achieving moderate success very much in spite of himself and somehow that’s qualified him for a job at one of the country’s top-half teams.

In related news, this will be my last post for the blog, as apparently I might qualify for a La Liga coaching position too. I recommend applying as well, because if this appointment has taught us anything, it’s that their recruitment process isn’t all that rigorous.

TEAM NEWS

BARCELONA

Well, now that I’ve spent a few paragraphs disparaging his managerial ability, you can probably guarantee that Eusebio will put on a tactical masterclass tomorrow and somehow escape with a favourable result. Of course, given how we manhandled Real Madrid in their own backyard, a favourable result by comparison might be something like a three-goal defeat. Loses 0-3, still technically better than Real – that’d be a great tagline for Eusebio really.

Barcelona have no new injury concerns to worry about, so expect another strong selection. Claudio Bravo will start in goal, and while last week was his first clean sheet in a while, the quality of his performance will come as no surprise to fans of either club; of course, he was club captain at Real Sociedad prior to joining the Blaugrana, where he excelled in last year’s title win. Rumours of him leaving are also terrible, and arguably as stupid as those about Messi, but that’s a story for another time.

In defense, Dani Alves is all we’ve really got at right-back until January when Aleix Vidal is cleared for action by FIFA, so the Brazilian will start. Jordi Alba will likely start on the opposite flank, and I suspect that Marc Bartra might get a game after sitting the last two out of the squad and on the bench respectively. We’ve seen Jeremy Mathieu and Thomas Vermaelen; now give us Bartra. Of course, Gerard Pique will round off the defense.

In midfield, Sergio Busquets got a half to rest in midweek, so he’ll start with some fresh legs ready to dominate the midfield. Luckily, he won’t have to do it alone either, because Sergi Roberto and Ivan Rakitic will be there to help him and we’ve seen just how awesome each of them can be – and in Sergi’s case, have been in recent matches.

Oh, and it helps that we have those guys upfront. Lionel Messi isn’t 100%, but he’s a genius anyway, so could easily score or assist a few goals on his own, while Neymar is experiencing a dreadful goal drought having not scored for an entire game. Ergo, look for him to compensate with a brace or something. Then there’s Luis Suarez, who seems to be compensating for his trademark teeth by bagging himself a tonne of braces just this past week alone. It’s too late for you Luisito, but carry on anyway, just in case.

REAL SOCIEDAD

Former Galactico midfielder, Asier Illarremendi is suspended and so joins a long list of Sociedad absentees including Markel Bergara, Ion Ansotegi, Joseba Zaldua and Chory Castro – the latter three of whom were merely dropped for tomorrow’s trip to Catalunya. Having only taken charge of one match thus far, it’s difficult to know what Eusebio might be planning – or for him to have gathered much of an idea about who he can, and cannot trust in a game of this magnitude.

However, if last week’s win over Sevilla is anything to go by, expect a heavy dose of pressure from the frontline and attacking midfield, coupled with a disciplined, well-coordinated defensive effort at the back. A lot will ride on the shoulders of Imanol Agirretxe, who only trails Luis Suarez and Neymar in the race for Pichichi with nine goals to his name so far this campaign.

FORM GUIDE

Barcelona: DWWWWW

Real Sociedad: LLWLLW

LAST MEETING

FC Barcelona 2-0 Real Sociedad – 9th May 2015 – La Liga

Barcelona avenged their earlier season defeat by coasting to victory in this clash at the Camp Nou, as an opener from Neymar, followed by a sensational goal by Pedro secured the three points.

LIKELY LINE-UPS

Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Alves, Pique, Bartra, Alba; Busquets, Roberto, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Real Sociedad (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Elustondo, Inigo, Mikel, De La Bella; Pardo, Zurutuza; Bruma, Canales, Vela; Agirretxe

MATCH PREDICTION

I think we keep on rolling; 4-0 Barca, again.