Barcelona will be aiming to maintain their excellent run of form as they travel to Reale Arena to face Real Sociedad on Saturday.

Barcelona are one of the most in-form teams in Europe at the moment. The Spanish champions have won all of their last seven matches in all competitions. They will have a chance of extending that impressive record when they meet Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena on Saturday.

Barcelona are currently level on points with Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table, with both sides picking up 34 points on the board. The Catalans, however, have a slightly superior goal difference. But, at the same time, they are well aware of the fact that any mishap against Sociedad will allow their arch-rivals to return to the top while Sevilla are also pushing for the second position.

As for Sociedad, they have done well so far this season, mustering 27 points in 16 matches. A win against Barcelona won’t be enough to overtake third-placed Sevilla, but it could potentially help them close out the gap.

That being said, the hosts have registered only two victories in their last six matches in all competitions. Hence, it’s probably fair to assume that they will only be seeking to salvage a point against an in-form Barcelona side, who are the obvious favourites in this clash.

And here, at the Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their enticing match-up in La Liga this weekend.

Tactics & Team News

Real Sociedad

Imanol Alguacil will be blessed with the return of Joseba Zaldua. The Spaniard will once again assume his role at right-back, at the expense of Andoni Gorosabel. Nacho Monreal, meanwhile, is a guaranteed starter on the opposite flank.

In central defence, Robin Le Normand is unavailable due to suspension. He will likely be replaced by Igor Zubeldia operating in a more defensive role, alongside the ever-present figure of Diego Llorente.

Is Diego Llorente heading to the Premier League? (Picture Courtesy - AFP/Getty Images)

Diego Llorente’s composure at the back could be critical. (Picture Courtesy – AFP/Getty Images)

The midfield will remain unchanged, especially with Asier Illaramendi and David Zurutuza out injured. Ander Guevara is set to retain his role in the holding midfield slot, with Mikel Merino and Martin Odegaard partnering him in slightly advanced roles.

The Sociedad attack will be spearheaded by William Jose, who is the club’s top goalscorer with seven goals. The onus will be on the wingers Mikel Oyarzabal and Portu to provide the necessary creative support from the flanks. The duo will also look to exploit Barcelona’s lack of solidity on that side of the pitch.

Probable Lineup (4-1-2-3): Remiro; Zaldua, Zubeldia, Llorente, Monreal; Guevara; Odegaard, Merino; Portu, Jose, Oyarzabal

Barcelona

We could expect Ernesto Valverde to make a lot of changes to the side that secured a narrow 2-1 win over Inter Milan in midweek, helping Borussia Dortmund go through.

Back to the drawing board. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Valverde has responded really well to the critics.. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

First and foremost, the Spaniard is likely to revert to his preferred 4-3-3 shape, where Gerard Pique could return alongside Clement Lenglet at the heart of the backline. It could thus turn out to be a detrimental decision for Jean Clair Todibo and especially, Samuel Umtiti.

Barcelona are still likely to miss out on their premier full-backs in Jordi Alba and Nelson Semedo, meaning both Sergi Roberto and Junior Firpo are favourites to start.

In midfield, Sergio Busquets could return in the number six role while Frenkie de Jong and Ivan Rakitic are expected to replace Arturo Vidal and Carles Alena in the number eight slots.

Ansu Fati is pushing for a berth in the starting lineup. But, given the importance of this fixture, we may yet again see Antoine Griezmann given the nod.

Elsewhere, Lionel Messi is expected to return to the side after being omitted from the Inter squad as a precaution. The Argentine will form Barcelona’s offensive trifecta alongside Griezmann and Luis Suarez.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; de Jong, Busquets, Melo; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann

Key Stats

  • Real Sociedad have lost each of their last five La Liga games against Barcelona. Only once before have they suffered a longer such run against them in the top-flight.
  • Barcelona have won just two of their last nine away La Liga games against Real Sociedad, but both wins came under Ernesto Valverde.
  • At no other grounds have FC Barcelona lost more La Liga away games than at the now renamed Reale Arena.
  • Real Sociedad have won just one of their last four La Liga games, after winning three of the previous four.
  • Barcelona have won nine of their last ten La Liga games, scoring 2.9 goals on average in that run.

Player to Watch

Antoine Griezmann

Under pressure to deliver (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Under pressure to deliver. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Griezmann deserves a lot of credit for integrating to Barcelona so quickly. With both Messi and Suarez nearing the end of their respective careers, the onus has been on the Frenchman to take on the additional burden in the final third. And he has responded really well.

On Saturday, however, he will visit Reale Arena for the first time since joining Barcelona in the summer. The forward has enjoyed a lot of productive years during his time at Real Sociedad. But, in this important fixture, he will be expected to provide the spark in the attack for Barcelona.

It will also be interesting to see if Griezmann can maintain the level of understanding that he has developed with Messi, of late.

Prediction

Real Sociedad 0-1 Barcelona

Barcelona’s revamped starting line-up may startle the Real Sociedad side this weekend. And given the hosts’ poor form, it won’t be surprising to see them struggle to cope with the Catalans. However, given the quality of the two sides, this could indeed turn out to be a nail-biting encounter, though we do predict Barcelona to seal a narrow victory.

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