Real Sociedad (5th, 19pts) vs FC Barcelona (4th, 24pts)*
*Standings at the time of writing
Competition/Round: 2023-24 La Liga, Matchday 12
Barcelona Outs & Doubts: Frenkie de Jong, Sergi Roberto (out)
Real Sociedad Outs & Doubts: Martín Merquelanz, André Silva, Kieran Tierney, Jon Pacheco (out)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 4, 2023, 9pm CET/WAT (Barcelona & Nigeria), 8pm GMT (UK), 4pm ET, 1pm PT (USA), 1.30am IST (India, Sunday)
Venue: Reale Arena, San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain
Referee: Javier Alberola Rojas
VAR: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
How to watch on TV: ESPN Deportes (USA), SuperSport (Nigeria), Sports18 (India), Movistar LaLiga (Spain), Not Available (UK, Canada), others
Following a heartbreaking loss to Real Madrid in El Clásico to end their unbeaten run to start the season, Barcelona begin a crucial November with a monster road test in La Liga as they travel to Anoeta to face Real Sociedad on Saturday Night Fútbol.
Barça come into this one on the back of a loss they didn’t deserve after somehow letting a game they dominated for 60 minutes slip away. Despite the bad result the feeling about the team remains positive, with enough good signs from the performance to provide a lot of hope for the rest of the season as the injury crisis becomes part of the past and Xavi Hernández can once again count on his best players over the next few weeks.
But confidence has taken a hit, the best players who are back from injury are not 100% yet, and this is definitely not the ideal time to face a Real Sociedad team that is always a brutal test but might be at their very best ahead of this one.
This isn’t the same La Real from previous years that counted on a great defense and a whole lot of 1-0 wins to fight for the Top Four; they are legitimately scary this season, with manager Imanol Aguacil more willing to take risks and letting his young, talented attacking players loose to wreak havoc in domestic and continental competition.
Sociedad have lost twice all season, both of them on the road against the two Madrid teams in two very close games. They lead their Champions League group and should advance to the knockout rounds with relative ease, and Japanese winger Takefusa Kubo is enjoying the form of his life right now.
They remain a strong, physical defensive team that uses a highly intense style to win the ball high up the pitch and beat you with quick, incisive passing sequences and a whole lot of dangerous set pieces, and they are a brutal matchup for Barça. The Blaugrana have been actually quite successful away at Anoeta since breaking the infamous curse back in 2017, but they’ve never faced a Sociedad team quite this good in the last half-decade. And that’s saying something.
This will be a brutal test but Barça have a ton of key players back who can at least contribute off the bench, including the much-anticipated return of Pedri to add some magic to the midfield against a team that prides itself in winning the battle at the center of the park. The Catalans badly need a win to keep pace with Madrid and Girona, and three points are simply a must.
But La Real also need a victory to enter the Top Four conversation, and are looking as good as they’ve ever looked right now. They can absolutely beat Barça, and the crowd will be up for it. This should be all kinds of fun.
Real Sociedad (4-2-3-1): Remiro; Traoré, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Muñoz; Zubimendi, Merino; Kubo, Méndez, Barrentxea; Oyarzabal
Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Cancelo, Araujo, Iñigo, Balde; Fermín, Gavi, Gündogan; Yamal, Ferran, Félix
I have a whole lot of respect for this season’s Sociedad team and I don’t have a great feeling about this one, and this is the most optimistic I can be: 2-2 draw.