Tuesday, September 24, 19:00 GMT
Camp Nou, Barcelona
After a pretty routine win over Rayo Vallecano, Barcelona are back in action again at Camp Nou against fellow Champions League participants Real Sociedad in matchday 6 of La Liga, looking to maintain their perfect league record intact. Real Sociedad, on the other hand, haven’t had the best of starts, with only one win and three draws in their first five matches and they will be looking to gather some momentum with a good showing and result at Camp Nou. This match is clearly more essential for Barcelona though, since in the title race with Real Madrid every single point is of vital importance with the margin for error being so slim.
Team News and Tactical Brief
The Catalans have kept a perfect league record so far and will be looking to further build on it in front of their crowd. Some rotation is expected, namely the return of Busquets and Iniesta to the starting lineup after skipping the Rayo Vallecano match. Puyol and Alba remain the only unavailable players due to injury, meaning the back 4 should be Adriano, Piqué, Mascherano and Alves, with Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta in midfield, Pedro, Neymar and Messi up front.
From a strategic point of view, Barcelona really have no secrets ever; they will attempt to control possession from the very beginning and create openings in the Real Sociedad defense. The match against Rayo Vallecano was the first in five years where Barcelona didn’t have more of the possession than their opponents, and it was certainly an anomaly rather than a new trend. You can fully expect the Catalans to dominate possession and pressure their opponents relentlessly going forward.
Unlike most teams visiting the Camp Nou, Real Sociedad are almost certain to press all over the pitch and not just sit back, thus creating some unique challenges to Barcelona. It will take a lot of focus and intensity for the Catalans to notch yet another league win.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Victor Valdés; Adriano Correia, Gerard Piqué, Javier Mascherano, Daniel Alves; Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez, Andrés Iniesta; Neymar, Pedro Rodriguez, Lionel Messi
After Philip Montanier’s departure, his assistant Jagoba Arrasate took over, with quite a tough act to follow; so far, he hasn’t been particularly successful, although it’s still the early going. The Basquets have kept their entertaining and attacking brand of football, but they’ve only won one game so far and perhaps more worringly only scored 4 goals, and haven’t found the net for almost five hours of play now.
Due to the financial constraints affecting all of La Liga except the ‘Big 2’, it’s a big challenge for Real Sociedad to play in 3 different competitions, since their squad isn’t exactly very deep; a season-ending injury to Granero, one the club’s summer signings, will only make matters harder. It remains to be seen whether Champions League qualification will turn out to be a blessing or a curse.
Arraste is likely to opt for his traditional 4-2-3-1 formation, with Bravo in goal, both Martinez, Gonzalez and Angel at the back, shielded by Bergara and Pardo; Vela, Prieto and Griezmann will play behind the sole striker Agirretxe. Real will look to pressure Barcelona all over the pitch and play their trademark free flowing football, but at Camp Nou they will inevitably be forced to run and defend far more than they are used to and made to rely on quick counterattacks to score. It will take a very focused and inspired team performance to get anything from this match, but the Basques are sure to take heart from how close Sevilla was to do it just about a week ago and surely fancy their chances.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Martinez, Gonzalez, Martinez, Angel; Bergara, Pardo; Vela, Prieto, Griezmann; Agirretxe
Key Match Facts
- Last season, Real Sociedad were one of only two teams – the other being Real Madrid – to beat Barcelona in La Liga with a 3-2 win at Anoeta.
- Real Sociedad haven’t scored in 292 minutes in all official competitions.
- With a win in this match and the next, Barcelona will have recorded their best ever La Liga start.
- Last season’s corresponding fixture ended 5-1 to Barcelona.
Player to Watch Out For
The Brazilian superstar has had a good start to his Barcelona career, but he hasn’t really stolen the show yet – something that is quite difficult to do in Messi’s shadows, granted. One big performance to announce his arrival is expected at any moment though and this could well be the match. The Camp Nou will be eager to see Neymar shine and his combo with Messi thrive to take the club to new heights.
FC Barcelona 2-0 Real Sociedad
Barcelona won’t have it easy, but they will keep their perfect record in La Liga, with Messi and Neymar on target. Real Sociedad will keep struggling to find the net and won’t be able to keep the Catalan juggernaut at bay for 90 minutes.