It’s back to league business for Barca, who’ll be wary of la Real...
Barcelona’s juggernaut has picked up maximum speed and appears to be heading towards a clutch of titles again this season. La Blaugrana are back to the summit of the Primera Division after a brief hiatus and they’ve also progressed in the Champions League, defeating bogey side Rubin Kazan 2-0 on Tuesday evening, despite fielding a fringe side. Real Sociedad are the latest unit to question the might of la Blaugrana.
Pep Guardiola watched on contentedly as goals from Fontas and Victor Vazquez dispatched Rubin with the minimum of fuss in midweek, firmly announcing the two young talents to the world. Additionally, Thiago produced a smooth performance in the middle of the park, increasing talk that he could be Xavi’s long-term successor. All-in-all, Barca’s youths did themselves proud.
But it will be the more experienced figures who are back in the spotlight come Sunday’s potentially awkward clash against the Basques. The senior players have been strong of late, shaking off any World Cup fatigue that was still evident in their performances earlier this season. Guardiola’s men have now won eight successive league matches, scoring a stunning 27 times in their last six.
The last time a side with Real in their name visited Camp Nou, they were sent packing in spectacular style. Barca will again expect three points from Sunday’s encounter, but they won’t be so naive to predict a repeat of the 5-0 bashing they dealt to great rivals Real Madrid a fortnight ago.
Promoted from the Segunda Division in the summer, Real Sociedad would have watched on impressed as Hercules recorded a staggering victory in Camp Nou at the season’s outset. But the Basque club have made waves of their own, albeit not so spectacular but certainly more effective.
Their rivals from Alicante may have claimed some giant scalps, but they remain on the fringes of the relegation zone. La Real, meanwhile, have proven that slow and steady wins the race, with their magnificent home form lifting them to the unexpected heights of sixth.
Last weekend’s terrific 2-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao was a perfect example of why Sociedad have been successful this season at Anoeta. They were disciplined defensively but also sharp enough in their opponents’ box to force mistakes that led to goals.
Despite their lofty position, la Real remain humble and are acutely aware of the challenge that will be posed to them on Sunday night. “It will be a nice game, and we intend to travel to the Camp Nou with the intention of doing a good job’” Joseba Llorente said. “If we go into the match thinking we are going to be victims or conceding as few goals as possible, we are certainly going to lose.
“We have to go in without any fear and fight for every ball. The only trick to getting a positive result there is to hope that we play to 100 per cent and that they do not have a good day.”
With 22 points in the bank, the newly promoted outfit are well on the way to their pre-season target of safety.
Gabriel Milito and Jeffren Suarez are the only two absentees for Pep Guardiola’s side. Bojan Krkic is back involved in the first team after picking up a midweek problem and Seydou Keita is also ready to play after a knee issue kept him out in midweek.
Martin Lasarte is considering reshuffling his side to include five defenders in an attempt to stifle the home side.
French youngster Antoine Griezmann has been training in the gym and looks very unlikely to play, while Diego Ifran and David Zurutuza are also struggling badly.