Barcelona will be aiming to keep up the pressure on league leaders Atletico Madrid when they lock horns with Real Sociedad at Reale Arena on Sunday night.

Barcelona will be hoping to reclaim their second spot in the La Liga table and maintain a close distance to leaders Atletico Madrid when they travel to San Sebastian to face off against Real Sociedad this weekend.

Having entered the matchweek second in the standings after their 4-1 win over Huesca, Barcelona slipped down a position following Real Madrid’s 3-1 win over Celta Vigo on Saturday. And with Atletico Madrid also set to play before the Catalans on Sunday, they could potentially be six points behind the leaders and cannot afford a slip-up at the Anoeta.

So, it bodes well for Ronald Koeman & co. that they have not lost any of their last seven games in all competitions while having not tasted defeat in their previous 17 matches in La Liga. Real Sociedad, though, will pose a difficult challenge for the Blaugrana, especially on their home turf.

Imanol Alguacil’s side are fifth in the La Liga standings and were on a four-game unbeaten run in all competitions prior to their 1-0 loss to Granada last week. That run included two draws against Real Madrid as well as Manchester United in the Premier League, providing an indication of the test that Barcelona could be in for this weekend.

The reverse fixture saw Barcelona come back from behind to eke out a narrow 2-1 win, with goals coming from Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong after Willian Jose had put Real Sociedad in front. The two sides also clashed earlier this year in the Spanish Supercup semi-finals with Barcelona once again prevailing, albeit on penalties. Ahead of their latest meeting, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the clash.

Team News & Tactics

Real Sociedad

Ahead of the visit of Barcelona, Real Sociedad have a host of injury problems as the likes of Luca Sangalli, Miguel Angel Moya, Joseba Zaldua, Aritz Elustondo, Nacho Monreal and David Silva are all unavailable while Jon Guridi has also been sidelined after picking up an injury in training.

Imanol Alguacil will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Alex Remiro. Igor Zubeldia and Robin Le Normand should be the two centre-backs tasked with keeping the Barcelona attack at bay, with support coming from full-backs Andoni Gorosabel and Aihen Munoz, although they will look to charge forward during the attacking phases.

Club captain Asier Illarramendi should be the holding midfielder for Sociedad on Sunday and will likely have the unenviable task of keeping Lionel Messi quiet. Mikel Merino will partner him in the middle and look to offer support in both halves while the central midfield slot could be taken up by Ander Guevara.

Portu, who has seven La Liga goals this term, could replace Adnan Januzaj on the right flank and look to take the advantage of Jordi Alba’s high positioning. On the left-wing, there is no looking past the dangerous Mikel Oyarzabal. Alexander Isak, who is a transfer target for Barcelona, will spearhead the Sociedad attack on Sunday.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Munoz; Guevara, Illarramendi, Merino; Portu, Isak, Oyarzabal

Barcelona

There are no fresh injury concerns for Barcelona leading into the game. In fact, they have been handed a boost with Sergi Roberto returning to training. However, Ansu Fati, Philippe Coutinho and Gerard Pique remain out of action for the Catalan giants.

There could be a few tweaks made to the side that started against Huesca last time out, starting from the defence wherein Ronald Araujo could start alongside Oscar Mingueza and Clement Lenglet. The trio will shield the ever-present figure of Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.

Sergio Busquets, meanwhile, is a certain starter at the base of the midfield. On Sunday though, he should be partnered by Pedri and Frenkie de Jong, who should be restored to his natural habitat in midfield after playing the last two games in central defence. The duo will be key in providing the attacking thrust from the middle for Barcelona.

Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba are the undisputed starters as the wing-backs for Barcelona and will be the primary source of width when the Catalans attack. The latter, especially, will be key with his dangerous forward runs and brilliant understanding with captain Lionel Messi, who will start alongside Ousmane Dembele in attack with Antoine Griezmann dropping to the bench.

Probable Lineup (3-5-2): ter Stegen; Mingueza, Araujo, Lenglet; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Dembele, Messi

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won their last eight away matches in La Liga. The Catalans have kept a clean sheet in six of those eight games.
  • Real Sociedad have won their last three home games in La Liga. However, they have lost two of their last three league matches at home against Barcelona (D1).
  • Barcelona are undefeated in their last twelve meetings against Real Sociedad in all competitions.
  • Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil has faced Barcelona six times in all competitions but is yet to win a single game against them (D2 L4).
  • Barcelona superstar Antoine Griezmann has scored 150 goals in La Liga, forty of which came for Real Sociedad while he has scored 16 for the Catalans with the remaining 94 scored in Atletico Madrid colours.

Player to Watch

Lionel Messi

Embed from Getty Images

Who else but the Barcelona skipper and talisman, who is enjoying a scintillating run of form currently. Messi put in a sublime display last time out leading the Blaugrana to a comfortable victory over SD Huesca and will once again be aiming to do the same again on Sunday.

The 33-year-old boasts an excellent record against Real Sociedad, having been involved in 21 goals in 22 league games against La Real, with 14 goals and 7 assists. Expect him to be at the forefront of everything positive Barcelona conjure up in the attacking half this weekend.

Prediction

Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona

Real Sociedad had been on a promising run which was brought to a halt by Granada last time out. Barcelona, meanwhile, can do no wrong in La Liga, having gone without a defeat in 17 games. Plus, with Lionel Messi back to his best again, things are once again looking bright for Ronald Koeman & co. The Hard Tackle, thus, predicts the Catalans to bag another win and move to second place in La Liga.

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