Barcelona fight to get back on track
Barcelona headed into Thursday’s match on the back of consecutive home defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt and Cadiz but managed to return to winning ways at Real Sociedad.
It was always going to be a tough game at the Reale Arena and so it proved. After all, Real Sociedad had only lost twice at home all season before Thursday’s match and had kept seven consecutive clean sheets at Anoeta until Barca showed up.
Xavi has been talking about the importance of scoring the first goal in recent press conferences and saw his team do exactly that on Thursday, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang heading home the only goal of the game after just 11 minutes.
The goal came after Ousmane Dembele had hit the post, Gavi did brilliantly to retrieve the ball and find Ferran Torres who dinked the ball onto Aubameyang’s head for what turned out to be the winner.
Barca played well in the first half but it was a different story after the break when Real Sociedad came roaring back at the visitors and dominated the play and the possession.
44.3 - #Barcelona have registered, against #RealSociedad ⚪️ , their second lowest possession tally in a single @LaLigaEN game (44.3%) since 2005/06 campaign, only surpassed by the 44% registered against Real Betis in March 2019. Result. pic.twitter.com/G0pgAMrfg9— OptaJose (@OptaJose) April 21, 2022
Indeed there should have been more goals in the match but both teams missed good chances, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen played his part in the win also by making some important saves.
Xavi had demanded intensity and commitment from his team ahead of the match and that is exactly what he got and what was key to the win. Barca weren’t at their best, especially in the second half, but showed the grit and desire needed to grind out a key victory.
Auba levels with Memphis as Barca’s top scorer
Aubameyang’s goal ended something of a mini-drought for the striker. The former Arsenal man had only scored once in five games before kick-off but needed only 11 minutes to get back on the scoresheet.
That’s now nine La Liga goals in 11 appearances for the striker, only eight of which have been starts. Auba’s now also drawn level with Memphis Depay as Barca’s top scorer on 11 goals in all competitions and he’s done it in just 17 appearances since signing for the Catalans in January.
The last four players to score 9+ goals in their first 11 league games for Barcelona:— Squawka (@Squawka) April 21, 2022
◉ 1993: Romario
◉ 1996: Ronaldo
◉ 2010: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
◉ 2022: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
With six games left you would expect Auba to go on and score more to finish the season comfortably as the team’s top scorer, particularly with Memphis struggling for game time at Barca presently.
There were plenty of eyebrows raised when Auba signed in January, but there is no doubt at all he’s been an excellent addition to the squad and has played a key role in the team’s resurgence in 2022.
Busquets beats Iniesta’s record
Captain Sergio Busquets enjoyed a memorable evening in the Basque country. The midfielder led his side to another important victory on a night where he overtook Andres Iniesta for Barca appearances.
Busquets took to the pitch for the 675th time in Barcelona colors, meaning only Xavi (767) and Lionel Messi (778) have played more times for the Catalan giants than the Spain international.
It was another strong performance from the 33-year-old too and his latest achievement was acknowledged by his coach after the gaem. Xavi said, “We have to thank Busquets for his performances and commitment to the shirt.”
Busquets still has some way to go if he is to catch up with his boss and Messi at the top of the list but clearly remains a crucial player for Xavi right now.
Frenkie steps up in Pedri’s absence
A lot of the talk before the game had been how Barcelona would cope without the injured Pedri and it was Frenkie de Jong who stepped up to the plate on Thursday.
The Dutchman has had an inconsistent season at Barcelona but shone against Real Sociedad. De Jong was excellent in possession, worked his socks off without the ball and tried his best to drive his team forwards.
Frenkie de Jong for Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad:— Squawka (@Squawka) April 21, 2022
◉= Most duels won (11)
◉= Most chances created (3)
◉= Most aerial duels won (3)
◉= Most shots (3)
◉ Most tackles won (3)
◉= Most take-ons (2)
Putting in a shift. ♂️ pic.twitter.com/QhxdXEhuTM
Xavi certainly enjoyed his performance and singled out the Dutchman for praise after the game.
“He was very good, especially in the first half. He has strength. He’s a complete player and gave a good pass to Auba to score a second goal,” he said. “He played a great match. He has great physical ability and is very important to us.”
Barca hit by defensive injuries
Barcelona’s win over Real Sociedad did come at a cost with the entire backline seemingly struggling with injury at various points over the 90 minutes.
Gerard Pique was back in the starting XI after returning to fitness but looked like he was going to go off in the first half. The center-back stayed on but didn’t look completely comfortable and was eventually replaced late on by Clement Lenglet.
Perhaps more worrying was the sight of Ronald Araujo hobbling off with a knee injury. Araujo was back in the team after missing the defeat to Cadiz due to suspension and his return was a boost.
Jordi Alba and Dani Alves also picked up knocks which will be of concern given the lack of options at full-back. Sergino Dest came on for Alves and can play on either side but the injuries will be a headache Xavi could do without for the run-in.