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Copa del Rey: Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona: Team News, Match Preview

Can the Blaugrana finally get a win at the Anoeta?

Barcelona v Athletic Club - Copa del Rey: Round of 16 Second Leg Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images

FC Barcelona will be hoping to end the streak tomorrow, as they travel to the Basque Country hoping to record their first win in their last nine visits to the Anoeta against Real Sociedad. The Blaugrana enter the match in good form, having rebounded from their shaky start to 2017, while Sociedad have struggled somewhat in recent weeks, providing a renewed sense of optimism that maybe, just maybe this could be the time that Barça broke their jinx.

Despite defeating Villarreal in the previous round, Sociedad’s La Liga form since returning from the winter break has been patchy; a 2-0 win at La Rosaleda on Monday was impressive, but the 0-4 home drubbing inflicted by Sevilla demonstrates their fragility. It’s more likely that we see the kind of performance they delivered against Malaga, but at least there is proof that teams can not only win at the Anoeta, but do so convincingly playing an expansive brand of football.

One of the benefits of both legs of this tie falling on a Thursday is that Real Sociedad’s schedule over the coming weeks looks a little tough; on Sunday they host Celta Vigo, who are of course knocking on the door for a European place and the following weekend they travel to the Bernabeu. Eusebio will likely admit that his squad does not contain enough depth to really challenge across both fronts – and if they have designs on consolidating their grip on 5th place, he may consider resting some players as a result.

On the other hand, you might realise that this is all conjecture; the only facts we know are that Barcelona travel tomorrow for the first match of a two-legged quarter-final, and as such, we know that we don’t necessarily need a result tomorrow to ensure progression to the next round. We know that Real Sociedad are a strong team who excel at home and that over the course of the next 180 minutes of Copa del Rey football, we are going to face a difficult test.

Perhaps this could be something of a litmus test for our squad; they’ve showed signs of improvement in the past couple of weeks. Can they continue that trend and really give us a reason to be excited for the remainder of the season when they take to the field at the Anoeta?



From a team news standpoint, the biggest news regards Rafinha Alcantara; after starting the weekend's win over Las Palmas, the Brazilian midfielder has picked up a hamstring issue, meaning he will not travel with the rest of the squad. Also left in Catalunya are Marc-Andre ter Steven, Aleix Vidal and Jeremy Mathew, although their omission is unlikely to come as much of a surprise.

With a trip to Ipurua coming this Sunday, Luis Enrique may feel as though he should continue rotating his squad, particularly given Real Madrid's defeat at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on Sunday which gave the title race a new lease of life. With that in mind, expect a fusion of the usual starting line-up and our usual Copa del Rey team.

Jasper Cillessen will start in goal, hoping to build upon his performance against Athletic Bilbao last weekend. He will be protected by a defense that will include the returning Sergi Roberto and Gerard Pique, while I suspect that Javier Mascherano and Jordi Alba will both rotate out to hand the French connection, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne, the final two starting spots.

In midfield, club captain Andres Iniesta will return to lead his side into battle, and I suspect that he will be flanked by his usual lieutenants, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets. The Croatian only played half an hour at the weekend, and I suspect his workload will be reversed this time round, with Denis Suarez then able to make an appearance off the bench in the second half.

Neymar should also return in attack, and given the calibre of opposition, I would be surprised if he wasn’t joined by both Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan may then be rested either at the weekend, or next week, dependent upon our result tomorrow – but in either case, I don’t expect Paco Alcacer to lead the attack tomorrow.


The mood in the Basque Country this week is a positive one; this Friday sees the celebration of the Tamborrada of Donostia, an annual festival held in San Sebastian. The party is tipped to begin at the Anoeta with a positive result against Barcelona, or at least that’s the plan anyway. With a number of defenders sidelined through injury, Eusebio is unlikely to be relishing the idea of keeping the MSN trident at bay, in particular Neymar who has recaptured some form as of late.

At the other end of the field, Willian Jose will continue to pose the biggest threat to the Barcelona backline, while Juanmi will be looking to build upon his recent good form, which has seen him score six in his last nine appearances in all competitions.


Barcelona: WWLDWW

Real Sociedad: WDWLDW


Real Sociedad 1-1 FC Barcelona – 27th November 2016 – La Liga

Lionel Messi’s equaliser just before the hour mark was enough to earn the Blaugrana a point, as the Argentine struck to cancel out Willian Jose’s second-half opener.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Cillessen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Digne; Busquets, Rakitic, Iniesta; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Real Sociedad (4-2-3-1): Rulli; Litri, Elustondo, Inigo, Yuri; Zurutuza, Illarramendi; Mikel, Prieto, Juanmi; Willian


Win? At the Anoeta? Are you crazy? Another 1-1 draw.

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