Barcelona - Real Sociedad Preview: Catalan giants plot return to La Liga summit as Vilanova era begins
All eyes will be on the new Blaugrana boss as he oversees his first competitive game from the Camp Nou dugout after taking over from Pep Guardiola in the summer
By Karthick Arvinth
Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba
Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta
Fabregas, Messi, Sanchez
Estrada, Gonzalez, I. Martinez, Angel
Castro, Zurutuza, Griezmann
Barcelona summer signing Jordi Alba is in line for his league debut against Real Sociedad on Sunday.
The former Valencia player is the only major arrival at Camp Nou so far, although a deal for Arsenal midfielder Alex Song is expected to be finalised imminently.
David Villa is unlikely to be involved in the fixture as he continues to build up match fitness, while Thiago Alcantara (tibia) has recovered from injury.
Real Sociedad look set to hand a competitive debut to defender Jose Angel, who was signed on a season-long loan from Italian giants Roma.
Another summer arrival, Chori Castro from Mallorca, could get the nod in attack alongside Carlos Vela and Antoine Griezmann.
|DID YOU KNOW?|
- Barcelona have won six of their last eight head-to-head meetings with Real Sociedad (W6, D1, L1).
- The Catalan side are bidding for a fourth consecutive winning start to their league campaign after opening victories over Malaga (2011-12), Racing Santander (2010-11) and Sporting Gijon (2009-10) respectively.
- Lionel Messi (pictured right) was Barcelona's top scorer in pre-season with five goals.
- Real Sociedad have lost on their last 14 trips to Camp Nou.
- The Basque outfit won just three of their 19 away games in the Primera Division last season.
- Sociedad's last victory over Barcelona was a 2-1 home win in April 2011.
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Top 3 Predictions
FC Barcelona 5-0 Real Sociedad
- 21.25 %
FC Barcelona 3-0 Real Sociedad
- 15.43 %
FC Barcelona 4-0 Real Sociedad
- 11.93 %
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Feb 22, 2014||Real Sociedad 3 - FC Barcelona 1|
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Feb 12, 2014||Real Sociedad 1 - FC Barcelona 1|
|Spain - Copa del Rey (ESPC)||Feb 5, 2014||FC Barcelona 2 - Real Sociedad 0|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Sep 24, 2013||FC Barcelona 4 - Real Sociedad 1|
|Spain - Primera Division (LIGA)||Jan 19, 2013||Real Sociedad 3 - FC Barcelona 2|
|Apr 16, 2014||FC Barcelona 1 - Real Madrid CF 2||ESPC|
|Apr 12, 2014||Granada 1 - FC Barcelona 0||LIGA|
|Apr 9, 2014||Atletico Madrid 1 - FC Barcelona 0||UCL|
|Apr 5, 2014||FC Barcelona 3 - Betis 1||LIGA|
|Apr 1, 2014||FC Barcelona 1 - Atletico Madrid 1||UCL|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
|24||Alberto De la Bella||Defender|
|2||Carlos Martínez Díez||Defender|
|3||Mikel González Martínez||Defender|
|4||Gorka Gorka Elustondo Urkiola||Midfielder|
The Argentine struck a remarkable 73 goals in all competitions last term, shattering Gerd Muller's European goalscoring record of 67 set in 1972-73. While Tito Vilanova would no doubt be relying on Messi to lead from the front again this season, he would be hoping his other forwards can chip in with sizable contributions to take some of the pressure off the three-time Ballon d'Or winner's shoulders.
The France Under-21 international boasts plenty of pace and trickery on the wings, but he has also been used as an out-and-out striker to good effect by Philippe Montanier. Should Griezmann be deployed on the left wing - as seems likely - then Dani Alves could be in for a tough night.
Barcelona are about to usher in a new era with Vilanova and it will be interesting to see how he moulds his team through the season. Will he tinker with the striker-less tiki-taka system that has come to be known as the Barcelona way? Regardless, the Catalans have little to fear in Sociedad and should hit the ground running with a straightforward victory.
Times In BST
Live Final scheduled Suspended Cancelled Postponed