Barcelona return to La Liga action on Saturday with a fixture that has recently been met with more than a little trepidation, a trip to Anoeta to take on Real Sociedad.
The Catalan giants have a famously poor record at Sociedad. Last season’s 4-2 win (after Barca had gone 2-0 down) was their first league victory at Anoeta since 2007.
The result ended a 10-year wait for a win and marked the end of their ‘Anoeta curse.’
All of which was a bit of a relief. But this year things are going to be a little bit different. The stadium is being renovated, and Barcelona will be the first visitors to sample the new surroundings. Will it help the visitors?
The banner is up and the scoreboard has been installed at #TheNewAnoeta! #RealSociedad pic.twitter.com/fKvnXjCbFI— Real Sociedad (@RealSociedadEN) September 12, 2018
Saturday will be an unforgettable day #TheNewAnoeta #RealSociedad pic.twitter.com/TOjkpPrAQj— Real Sociedad (@RealSociedadEN) September 11, 2018
The crowd will be a little closer to the pitch, which was laid 10 days before the game, and you can be sure Sociedad are going to want to christen the ‘new Anoeta’ with a good performance. They will certainly not be lacking in motivation.
For the Sociedad fans it will be the first chance to see their team at home this season after three away games on the bounce while work was being undertaken on the stadium.
Midfielder David Zurutuza said having the supporters closer to the pitch will help the hosts.
#RSFlash - @DZurutuza: “The new stadium will be much better. Our fans will be closer than ever and that will make it easier to feel their support”. #RealSociedad pic.twitter.com/0MixbGU71P— Real Sociedad (@RealSociedadEN) September 13, 2018
Real Sociedad president Jokin Aperribay has also given his view: “We are very happy because at last we get to play at a stadium without a running track, it’s going to be a very special day,”
It should make for a more intense atmosphere which Barcelona will have to cope with if they are to maintain their perfect start to the season.
Barcelona’s last away match at Real Valladolid was a tough slog on an awful pitch. Ousmane Dembele came up with the goods, and Barcelona will be hoping Real Sociedad’s new pitch is in much better shape. It should be.
Sociedad themselves have had a pretty mixed start to the season. They started well with a 2-1 win at Villarreal, threw away a 2-0 lead to draw 2-2 at Leganes and lost 2-1 to Eibar last time out.
Barcelona hit eight last time out against Huesca but looked far from secure defensively. They may also have one eye on Tuesday’s Champions League opener against PSV Eindhoven.
Real Sociedad’s recent record against Barcelona will give the visitors confidence, and they will be relishing finally playing in front of their own supporters at the renovated Anoeta against the league champions.
Barcelona broke their curse on their last visit but much has changed since then. Will it help the visitors or make a tricky trip even tougher?