Sports Mole previews Thursday’s La Liga clash between Real Sociedad and Barcelona, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
The Catalan outfit are currently second in the table, 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid, while Real Sociedad are fifth, five points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid in the race for the Champions League spots.
Real Sociedad have not finished higher than fifth in La Liga since claiming fourth in 2013, but they are in the mix for a top-four spot this term, currently sitting sixth, five points behind fourth-placed Atletico.
The Basque outfit have been in strong form since losing 4-1 at Real Madrid towards the start of March, picking up 11 points from their last five matches, including a 0-0 draw with fifth-placed Real Betis on Friday night.
Real Sociedad will need to win the majority of their final six league matches to stand a chance of finishing in the top four, and they have three relatively kind fixtures after this one, facing Rayo Vallecano, Levante and Cadiz, before tackling Villarreal and Atletico in their last two league games of the campaign.
The White and Blues have been strong in front of their own supporters this season, picking up 32 points from 16 matches, recording nine wins in the process, but they will be hosting a Barcelona side with the second-best away record in Spain’s top flight, with the Catalan outfit collecting 28 points from 16 matches.
Real Sociedad have also lost nine of their last 10 league games against Barcelona and have not overcome them in Spain’s top flight since April 2016, which is the indication of the size of their task in this match.
Barcelona won seven straight league matches between February 20 and April 10, which left them in charge of second spot in the table, but they suffered a shock 1-0 home loss to Cadiz on Monday night.
Lucas Perez netted the only goal of the contest early in the second period, and Xavi‘s side could not respond, despite the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traore and Luuk de Jong all being introduced in the second half of the league contest.
Barcelona are still second in the table, now 15 points behind leaders Real Madrid with a match spare, but they are level on points with third-placed Sevilla and fourth-placed Atletico, while Real Betis in fifth position are just three points behind, so the Catalan outfit are in a top-four battle.
Xavi’s side were shocked at home by Eintracht Frankfurt in the quarter-finals of the Europa League last week, meanwhile, so it has not been a positive few days for the team, who will seemingly end the season without a trophy unless there is a dramatic collapse from Real Madrid.
Barcelona, who are expected to be active in the summer transfer window despite their ongoing financial issues, will face Rayo Vallecano and Mallorca in back-to-back home league fixtures after this one, before taking on Real Betis, Celta Vigo, Getafe and Villarreal in their final four games of the campaign.
Real Sociedad La Liga form:
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Silva’s absence, courtesy of his red card against Real Betis on Friday, could mean a change of formation for the home side, with Portu potentially coming into a front three, while Joseba Zaldua should return at right-back, having been suspended last time out.
Head coach Alguacil is likely to resist the temptation to shuffle his pack from the goalless draw, though, so the majority of the players should keep their spots, with Alexander Isak and Alexander Sorloth both set to feature in the final third of the field.
Ansu Fati is getting closer to a first-team return, and Xavi could yet to decide to name the Spain international on the bench for the clash with Real Sociedad.
There is also expected to be a change in the final third of the field following the defeat to Cadiz, with Aubameyang set to replace Memphis Depay, while Sergino Dest and Clement Lenglet could drop out of the defence to allow Pique and Araujo to return.
Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Zaldua, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Rico; Merino, Zubimendi, Rafinha; Isak, Sorloth, Portu
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Araujo, Pique, E Garcia, Alba; F de Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Dembele, Aubameyang, Torres
We say: Real Sociedad 1-1 Barcelona
Barcelona will be desperate to return to winning ways on Thursday evening, but Real Sociedad are a team to be taken extremely seriously, especially on home soil. The Basque outfit will also be the fresher of the two sides, so we have had to settle on a low-scoring draw, which would further open up the top-four race.