Barcelona play one of their most important games of the season when they travel to the Basque Country to face Real Sociedad at Anoeta on Thursday night.
After two bad losses to inferior teams at home in a span of four days the Blaugrana are in desperate need of a reaction and a big victory to boost their confidence and stay in control of their fate in the race for the La Liga Top 4.
Because of other results in the week Xavi Hernández and his troops can pretty much guarantee a Champions League spot if they win this one, but La Real are always a brutal opponent in their home stadium and will not make things easy. Let’s see how Barça could line up on Thursday.
Barça’s backline was terrible against Cádiz and should have conceded a lot more than just the one goal that cost them all three points on Monday, and Xavi needs to find the right defensive formula against a dangerous and talented Sociedad attack.
There is very good news on that front as Ronald Araujo is back from suspension and walks straight into the team, most likely in place of the out of form Clément Lenglet. If Gerard Piqué is still not fit enough to return from his injury Eric García will partner Araujo in the middle, with Jordi Alba at left-back and Dani Alves on the right in place of Sergiño Dest.
The entire team was disappointing against Cádiz, but Barça’s midfield was especially below par in the first game without the injured Pedri and gave very little reason to believe they can perform at a high level without their best player.
Frenkie De Jong had one of his worst nights in a while, perhaps still feeling the effects of the illness he’s been dealing with for the past few days. Whatever the reason for his subpar performances, the Dutchman will probably find himself on the bench for this one with Nico González likely to get a big opportunity from Xavi to start alongside Sergio Busquets and Gavi, who need to step up their level in a big way during Pedri’s absence.
Memphis Depay’s Barça career is looking closer and closer to its end after another mediocre showing against Cádiz, and the Blaugrana simply aren’t the same without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang up front. The Gabon international will be back on the team on Thursday, and will need to be at his best against a very good Sociedad defense.
Ousmane Dembélé was perhaps the only bright spot in Barça’s attack against Cádiz and it is hard to see him being dropped at the moment. Ferran Torres could definitely use a rest, but Xavi has been very hesitant to start both Dembélé and Adama Traoré together this season. Maybe we’ll finally see that on Thursday, but it’s more likely that Ferran keeps his place once again.
Possible XI: Ter Stegen; Alves, Araujo, Eric, Alba; Nico, Busquets, Gavi; Dembélé, Aubameyang, Ferran (4-3-3)
How do YOU think Barcelona should line up against Sociedad? Let us know your thoughts, predictions and teams in the comments below!