Real Sociedad vs Barcelona: Preview and Prediction
Real Sociedad finished sixth in La Liga last season, and there is plenty of optimism surrounding the club’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League this season.
Los Txuri-Urdin started last season brilliantly before slipping to the Europa League places, which is certainly no shame for a club that was competing in the second tier as recently as 2010.
Real Sociedad has gradually improved under Imanol Alguacil’s tutelage since his appointment as head coach in 2018, with the 51-year-old guiding them to a top-half finish in each of his four full seasons in charge.
Last season’s point total of 62 was identical to the prior season, so the clear challenge this time around is to improve on that and close the gap on the top four teams in La Liga.
After defeating Cadiz 1-0 on the road last weekend thanks to Takefusa Kubo’s 24th-minute strike, Alguacil’s team will have the perfect opportunity to prove it when they face Barcelona at Anoeta Stadium on Monday, August 22.
If Real Sociedad represents a calm and steady progression after spending modestly over the years, Barcelona could not be a more stark contrast after another busy summer in Catalonia.
Despite incurring significant debt in recent years, president Joan Laporta has spent nearly £150 million bringing Jules Kounde, Raphinha, and Robert Lewandowski to the club during the current transfer window, with Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie also joining on big wages after signing on free transfers.
However, there is a distinct lack of organisation and cohesion at the club, with Kounde unlikely to be registered for the second weekend in a row as the club desperately tries to clear the wage bill in order to make room for the former Sevilla defender in their squad.
Off-the-field disruption frequently ends up disrupting things on the field, and that certainly appeared to be the case at Nou Camp last weekend. Despite having 21 shots and 68% possession against Rayo, there was a lack of fluidity throughout the game as Xavi’s team struggled to break down their tenacious opponents.
To be fair, a lack of chemistry was perhaps to be expected with three new signings named to the starting XI. The 42-year-old will be hoping that big-money signings Raphinha and Lewandowski improve after another week of settling in, but they will face a step up in class when they arrive in the Basque country this weekend.
What have they done so far?
Real Sociedad is sixth in the La Liga table at the moment with three points from one match. La Real kicked off their 2022-23 La Liga campaign with a 1-0 win against Cadiz away from home in the league. Takefusa Kubo scored the only goal of the match in the 24th minute.
Sociedad finished sixth in the La Liga table last season. For a while it looked like the Basque club would end up in the UEFA Champions League places, but eventually, they could only clinch a spot in the UEFA Europa League.
La Real have made three major signings so far in the summer transfer window. They have signed Mohamed-Ali Cho, Brais Méndez, and Takefusa Kubo.
Barcelona is 11th in the La Liga table at the moment with just a point from one match. Xavi’s side kicked off their 2022-23 campaign with a disappointing goalless draw with Ray Vallecano at Camp Nou in the league.
It was a very poor result for a team that is expected to at least challenge defending champions and bitter rivals Real Madrid for the La Liga title this season. Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets was also sent off in the third minute of injury time. Barcelona took 21 shots, but only six of them were on target.
Barcelona has been quite active in the summer transfer window s far and has made some big signings. Franck Kessie, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, and Andreas Christensen have moved to Camp Nou.
Real Sociedad will be without key attacking midfielder Mikel Oyarzabal, who will be out until at least mid-October after rupturing his cruciate ligament.
Diego Rico was forced off late against Cadiz with a hamstring injury and will almost certainly join Alex Sola and Carlos Hernandez on the sidelines, while Martin Merquelanz has a knee problem.
Aihen Munoz is expected to replace Rico at left-back, but Alguacil will not want to change a winning team, with David Silva’s movement between the lines crucial to unlocking Barcelona in transition.
That could be especially true on Sunday, with Sergio Busquets suspended after receiving a second yellow card in injury time against Rayo. After making an impact off the bench, Xavi may look to Frenkie De Jong and Kessie to start alongside Pedri in midfield, with Gavi dropping out after a poor performance.
Similarly, Eric Garcia could be benched to allow Sergio Araujo to move inside into his preferred central role, with Sergio Roberto a natural fit at right-back to provide more natural ability in possession.
Raphinha and Lewandowski will almost certainly start again, but Ansu Fati may be preferred to Ousmane Dembele on the left flank after an excellent cameo last time out, especially with Ferran Torres still recovering from a foot injury suffered in pre-season.
Head to Head Record
Barcelona has an impressive record against Real Sociedad and has won 37 out of the 57 matches played between the two teams, as opposed to Real Sociedad’s eight victories. Meanwhile, Real Sociedad is winless in their last 12 matches against Barcelona in La Liga, their second-longest winless streak against the Blaugrana in the top flight.
However, Barcelona is unbeaten in their last six visits to the Anoeta and has won their last two matches against Real Sociedad away from home.
Predicted Starting XIs
Real Sociedad (4-3-1-2): Álex Remiro; Aritz Elustondo, Igor Zubeldia, Robin Le Normand, Aihen Munoz; Martín Zubimendi, Brais Méndez, Mikel Merino; David Silva; Alexander Isak, Takefusa Kubo
FC Barcelona (4-3-3): Marc-Andre ter Stegen; Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen, Eric Garcia, Jordi Alba; Gavi, Frenkie de Jong, Pedri; Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele
Barcelona has not made the best of starts to their league campaign and cannot afford to slip up in this fixture. With Ousmane Dembele and Robert Lewandowski in their ranks, the Blaugrana have plenty of firepower going into this game.
Real Sociedad can pack a punch on their day but have struggled against the Catalans in recent years. Barcelona is the better team on paper and should be able to win this game. We back the Catalans to win this game 2-1.