Anoeta, San Sebastián
19 January, 2013; 18:00 hrs CET
The year 2013 started off well for FC Barcelona but the recent draw against Malaga in midweek might just have dampened the spirit of the fans across the globe. The match will serve as a reminder that the club is as likely to drop points as anybody else and in no time the competitors in Atletico and Real Madrid will be breathing down Barcelona’s neck.
Malaga – any praise for Manuel Pellegrini’s team will fail to do justice to their valiant effort at the Camp Nou, against Barcelona, with a man down. The visitors did a couple of unthinkable things too – they drew first blood and then came back from behind to hold on and earn themselves a fighting chance to proceed to the next round of the cup competition at the expense of the Catalans – something which will be appreciated deeply by Jose Mourinho and company.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Currently lying 9th and with less than half of Barcelona’s points, Real Sociedad may not fancy meeting Barca again. Last time these two
teams met, Barca won comfortably at the Camp Nou and David Villa scored just fifteen minutes after returning from a career threatening injury. In their last match against Deportivo, Sociedad were held to a draw and are yet to win a match in 2013. Despite a spirited fight back against Real Madrid, Sociedad had to be contented with a defeat. Xabi Prieto had a phenomenal game and quite deservedly notched his first hat-trick of the year. With Vela and Griezmann alongside Prieto, Sociedad has enough to trouble Barcelona. “It motivates me a lot and I hope that we are the first team to beat them, we have the ability to do it. We have to be at our best in defence and take the few opportunities that we have,” said the spirited young French winger.
Sociedad is expected to play their usual 4-2-3-1 with Prieto, Griezmann, Vela and Ifran upfront. Carlos Vela, the former Arsenal player has had a good season so far and has already scored 8 goals for the hosts in the league. His pace will make Vilanova wary of the threat he poses. With Griezmann, predominantly on the left side, Vela and Prieto change places making it even more difficult to mark them.
To balance the offensive side, Sociedad has a double-pivot comprising Illarramendi and Bergara. The Spanish duo does maintain the balance between offense and defense and also provides cover. However, in the match against Barcelona, they will predominantly provide cover to the defense to stifle the Barcelona offense, which has found the back of the net 64 times in 19 matches – that’s more than thrice every match. The defense will comprise the Martínez duo along with González and Bella. Claudio Bravo is also expected to start.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Bravo; Carlos Martínez, González, Inigo Martínez, Bella; Illarramendi, Bergara, Prieto, Vela, Griezmann; Ifran
They have drawn a match midweek and will be raring to get back to winning ways against Sociedad. Fans round the globe should be happy st this wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee incident came at such a stage into the campaign where it still doesn’t hamper the team’s chances too much. This is an indication that it’s just normal for them to draw or lose matches and drop points.
The point of concern at this juncture for the team is Alexis Sanchez. The expensive Chilean has been nothing short of woeful in front of goal and missed some simple goals in his last few matches. However, Vilanova and co. still maintain their faith in the youngster and are willing to give him time to improve and this is exactly where David Villa should fit in. It’s time Vilanova gives Villa the start he deserves and instils the faith that Guardiola had in him once he shrugs off his muscle injury. Villa might just not be the player he was prior to his injury, but he still remains one of the top marksmen on the planet. Lionel Messi perhaps had an off game against Malaga, keeping in mind the high standard he has set for himself and the Argentine perhaps knows this too. Up front, Iniesta and Pedro are expected to partner the Argentine.
Midfield should comprise Xavi and Fabregas in advanced positions with Busquets dropping behind in order to stall counter attacks and also give protection to the centre-backs. Daniel Alves, who is yet to reach his high standards, should start along with Jordi Alba, who has been exceptional in his first senior season at the Camp Nou. In the middle Pique should start with Mascherano, allowing the ageing captain a break after a tough match midweek against Malaga. Cristian Tello, who had a great outing against Malaga, should get some minutes in order to exploit the host’s defense’s fatigue with his swift movement and exceptional crossing.
Probable Starting Line-Up (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc; Iniesta, Messi, Pedro
- Barcelona have lost only one of their last 14 matches against Sociedad in all competitions.
- Lionel Messi now has 38 goals in all competitions in the 2012-13 season – that’s the total number of goals he scored in his first season under Guardiola.
- Barcelona have scored 64 goals in 19 league games this season – 29 at home in 9 matches and 35 away from home in 10 matches. Sociedad on the other hand have scored 14 goals in 9 away matches and also the same in 10 home matches.
Player To Watch Out For
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona)
The Argentine was not in the best of form against Malaga. He will however want to make amends against Sociedad this weekend. And that will make him a bigger threat to the hosts.
Sociedad 1-2 FC Barcelona
Barca might find it a little tough this time around. However the quality at their disposal should be enough to see them through.
Blast From The Past