Barcelona will be aiming to register their first win of the 2022/23 season when they travel to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad.

Barcelona will embark on a trip to the Basque Country this weekend as they gear up to take on Real Sociedad in Matchweek 2 of the 2022/23 La Liga on Sunday night at the Reale Arena.

Barcelona’s season was off to a disappointing start last weekend as they were held to a goalless draw by Rayo Vallecano at Spotify Camp Nou despite fielding a star-studded squad including new signings Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Andreas Christensen. Xavi’s side will be hoping to put that behind and get their campaign back on track, especially with Real Madrid winning two in two already.

As for Real Sociedad, they began the season with a narrow 1-0 away win over Cadiz, with new signing Takefusa Kubo scoring the only goal of the game. Currently seventh in the table, Imanol Alguacil’s side could join Real Madrid, Real Betis and CA Osasuna as the only teams with a 100% record after two games should they get the better of Barcelona on Sunday.

Barcelona beat Real Sociedad 1-0 last time they made the trip to the Anoeta and will be hoping for a similar outcome come Sunday night. Ahead of what could be a tightly-contested fixture, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad will be without the services of Mikel Oyarzabal and Martin Merquelanz for the clash against Barcelona. Diego Rico could also miss out after being withdrawn late against Cadiz, while Alex Sola and Carlos Fernandez are also expected to be unavailable. The trio of Asier Illarramendi, Martin Zubimendi and Mikel Merino should be available for selection despite not training on Friday.

Imanol Alguacil will line his team up in a 4-3-3 formation in front of goalkeeper Alex Remiro that would mirror Barcelona’s tactical setup. Igor Zubeldia and Robin Le Normand will have the unenviable task of keeping Robert Lewandowski quiet, and they will try to pick up things from the Alaves clash when the Pole was largely neutralised. Aritz Elustondo and Aihen Munoz should be the full-backs.

Moving into the centre of the park, Martin Zubimendi, who is a transfer target for Barcelona as a long-term replacement for Sergio Busquets, will occupy the No. 6 role and look to cut out the influence of Pedri. He will have support from Mikel Merino, who will likely operate in a more box-to-box capacity, while David Silva will provide the creative spark from the centre of the park.

Takefusa Kubo, a former La Masia trainee, should take up the left flank and look to get the better of Barcelona’s right-back, a position which is a significant weakness for the Catalans. Brais Mendez should occupy the opposite wing while Alexander Isak leads the line for La Real against the Blaugrana.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Remiro; Elustondo, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Munoz; Silva, Zubimendi, Merino; Mendez, Isak, Kubo

Barcelona

Barcelona will be without club captain Sergio Busquets, who is suspended after being sent off in the season opener against Rayo Vallecano. New signing Jules Kounde is yet to be registered and will likely miss out again for the Catalans. Xavi Hernandez does not have any other absentees, although out-of-favour players like Samuel Umtiti, Sergino Dest and Martin Braithwaite are unlikely to be involved.

There have been suggestions that the manager might switch to a three-man backline, although it would be contingent on Kounde’s registration. So, for now, Barcelona are likely to continue in their trademark 4-3-3 system with Marc-Andre ter Stegen guarding the goal at the Reale Arena.

Ronald Araujo was given the nod at right-back in the previous game and could again be persisted with, despite failing to convince. Jordi Alba looked unconvincing as well against Rayo Vallecano, but Xavi is likely to back his experience over young Alejandro Balde, even though the teenager showed a lot of promise in pre-season. Andreas Christensen and Eric Garcia will form the centre-back pairing.

With Busquets out, Miralem Pjanic could be given a surprise start in the pivot position in the centre of the park, following his impressive performances in pre-season. Frenkie de Jong, who made a huge impression after being subbed on in the last game, should replace Gavi in midfield, with Pedri occupying the third slot. Franck Kessie could also be an option for Xavi, should he opt not to go with Pjanic or de Jong.

Robert Lewandowski will spearhead the attack and look to get off the mark in La Liga after firing blanks in the opener. He will be supported out wide by Ousmane Dembele and Raphinha, both of whom had a quiet game last time and will be hoping to correct that. Ansu Fati and Ferran Torres will be options from the bench, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could play his last game for the club amid links to Chelsea.

Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Araujo, Christensen, Garcia, Alba; de Jong, Pjanic, Pedri; Raphinha, Lewandowski, Dembele

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won 12 of their last 14 matches against Real Sociedad in all competitions.
  • The Catalans are undefeated in their previous 15 away games in La Liga.
  • Real Sociedad have won three of their last four La Liga matches after failing to win any of their previous four in the competition.
  • Barcelona have failed to score a goal in each of their last three La Liga games.
  • Since 1955, Real Sociedad have only conceded six or more home goals in two La Liga matches, both of which came against Barcelona – once in October 2000 and then again in March 2021.

Player to Watch

Ousmane Dembele

After all the drama over his contract saga that ran for almost a year, Ousmane Dembele opted to re-sign with Barcelona ten days after becoming a free agent this summer. The French international had been one of their best players since the turn of the year, and it was evident that the club, particularly manager Xavi Hernandez, was intent on keeping hold of him.

The Frenchman flirted with the idea of a move away but ultimately decided to stay put, after having played some of his best football in Barcelona colours under the tutelage of the 42-year-old. Indeed, Dembele has created 42 goalscoring chances in La Liga in 2022, with only Iker Muniain (53) and Nabil Fekir (43) managing more.

The ex-Borussia Dortmund ace fashioned five opportunities against Vallecano last weekend – the most by any player on Matchday 1 of the 2022/23 La Liga season. But he was unable to inspire Barcelona to a victory. He and Xavi will be hoping that the outcome will be different this time out as they search for their first win of the campaign.

Prediction

Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona

Real Sociedad were made to work hard in the latter stages of their win over Cadiz last time out, and considering the quality that Barcelona boast in their ranks, the hosts will be up for a great challenge.

The Catalans are yet to click into top gear following the flurry of additions in the summer but showed some positive signs in the second half against Rayo Vallecano while their recent track record against La Real cannot be ignored. Hence, The Hard Tackle is predicting Xavi & co. to come away with all three points on Sunday night.

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