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La Liga: Barcelona Must Overcome Anoeta Stadium Curse vs. Real Sociedad

Barcelona visit a stadium they must hate going to in La Liga.

Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

What do Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino and Luis Enrique have in common? They all lost at Real Sociedad's Anoeta stadium - despite all being heavy favorites.

It doesn't seem to matter what kind of form La Real are in either. They just somehow keep getting good results.

This as Barcelona travel to the Basque Country for an important league match against La Real. Barcelona have dropped five points in their past two games, and their league advantage might start to look perilously small if they were to lose again.

2010-11 was Real Sociedad's first season in La Liga since they were last promoted. They finished a quite respectable 15th, but Barcelona were clearly superior. They got 96 points and were crowned champions.

Add to that that Barcelona were 31 league games unbeaten going into the Anoeta. Most of those were wins, with a 5-0 spanking of Real Madrid in the process.

Pep's men were right to be confident, especially with a 1-0 lead going into the 71st minute. Then, Diego Ifrán and Xabi Prieto (penalty) got on the board and turned it around. 2-1 it finished for the Basques.

2011-12, with Pep at the helm, the Catalans did get a 2-2 draw out of San Sebastián. Yet, it was still a disappointment as it was a game they had led 2-0 up until the 60th minute. Real Sociedad finished 12th, while Barcelona were 2nd that season.

2012-13 was something else. Under Tito Vilanova, Barcelona hadn't lost in the league all season heading into matchday 20th. At Anoeta, Barcelona were again 2-0 up, this time after only 25 minutes. Surely, Barça could at least get a draw out of it?

Then, Chori Castro pulled one back, then Javier Mascherano scored an own goal. Frustrating stuff, but at least it would be a draw, right?

Nope. In added time, Imanol Agirretxe made it 3-2. It was one of only 2 matches all season Barcelona would lose in La Liga.

In 2013-14 under Tata Martino, Barcelona had two trips to the Anoeta. First, it was in the cup. Barcelona had won the first leg 2-0, and thus, the 1-1 draw in San Sebastián was no big deal.

Could Barcelona finally win at Anoeta on their second try that season?

The answer was no. It started with an Alex Song own goal, which Lionel Messi cancelled out soon after. But then, La Real took over and scored twice - yet again in that 60th-to-70th minute range - to make it 3-1 and a particularly important defeat for the Blaugrana, who narrowly lost the league title.

Last season, Luis Enrique had a crack at breaking the Anoeta curse. Instead, that match was perhaps the most famous example of it.

Lucho had decided to keep Neymar and Messi on the bench after the international break. Jordi Alba scored an own goal  - the third time in as many league trips to Anoeta that Barcelona concede an own goal - almost right after the kickoff, and Barcelona lost 0-1. Luis Enrique was berated and Andoni Zubizarreta was fired as sporting director. Yet, improbably, Barcelona recovered from that point on and went on to win the treble in style.

So there you have it. Four coaches, six matches, two draws, four losses. It's not just the results, but how they came about.

Real Sociedad completed comebacks in four of those matches. Once, from 0-1 down to make it 1-1, another from 0-1 to 2-1, another from 0-2 down to 2-2, and then even from 0-2 down to make it 3-2.

Barcelona scored three own goals in the six matches, including during the past three games in the league.

Considering this is over a long time span, Barcelona teams and Real Sociedad teams have changed significantly from year to year. Given their relative strength, Barça were strong favorites each time. And they even had the added advantage of leading in the majority of those matches. Yet, they've stumbled in what seems almost supernatural fashion.

One wonders whether it's now become partly psychological. There may be a deeper, logical reason for Barcelona's struggles at the Anoeta. But Luis Enrique would do well to just ignore it and treat it as one big freak accident. This is Barcelona, and Barcelona should beat a midtable team every day of the week.

If not, well... you can always galvanize the team with an Anoeta loss... if you know how to play your cards right.

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