Barcelona head to Anoeta on Saturday to take on Real Sociedad in what promises to be a pretty intriguing fixture in La Liga.
The game comes just four days before Wednesday’s Clasico at the Camp Nou and will be a big test for Ernesto Valverde’s league leaders.
Let’s look at some of the talking points ahead of Saturday’s match:
Griezmann’s return to Sociedad
Antoine Griezmann heads back to the club where he made his name on Saturday and is likely to receive a hot reception from the fans once again. He came through the academy at La Real and scored 52 goals in his five years at Anoeta before sealing a switch to Atletico Madrid in 2014.
He was on target against Barcelona too in Sociedad’s colours, scoring twice in four home matches against them while with the Basque club.
The Frenchman has spoken fondly of his time at Sociedad just this week in an interview with UEFA when he explained he had to change his style under Diego Simeone.
”Everything [is from Real Sociedad]; my first touch, my give and go, my [ability to] look forward, I learned them at La Real. The basis of my game is thanks to La Real and when I noticed a change was when I signed for Atleti; it was a very hard change.”
Griezmann is expected to start the game alongside Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez, and the link-up play between Barca’s three attackers has shown signs of improvement in recent weeks.
All three players were on target in their last La Liga outing, a 5-2 demolition of Real Mallorca, but Griezmann has only scored once again from home this season and will surely find it tougher going against Imanol Alguacil’s side.
Odegaard to do Real Madrid a favour?
Real Madrid loanee Martin Odegaard is having himself a fine old season at Real Sociedad and would surely love to help his parent club out by inflicting defeat on Barca.
The Norwegian faces Barca for the first time and if he can help take points off the champions it would give Real Madrid the chance to move clear at the top of the table ahead of Wednesday’s Christmas Clasico.
Los Blancos also have a tricky fixture this weekend. They are away at Valencia on Sunday night but you can bet they’ll be hoping Odegaard can do the business tomorrow.
Odegaard has been one of La Liga’s standout players this season so far, scoring three times and picking up four assists, and will be expected to pose a major threat.
Valverde to continue winning streak at Anoeta?
Ernesto Valverde has attracted plenty of criticism during his time at Barcelona, but he has managed to break the club’s infamous ‘Anoeta Curse.’
The Catalan giants flirted with disaster on Valverde’s first visit in January 2018, coming from 2-0 down to win 4-2 and end a run of 10 years with a victory at Anoeta.
Last season was a tight affair which Barca won 2-1 in September 2018. Artiz Elustondo gave Sociedad an early lead, but two goals in three second-half minutes from Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele won it for Barca.
The champions’ away form has been shaky this season and Anoeta is still a tough place to go, but it does not hold quite the same fear factor as it used to for Barca.