Wednesday, September 19

La Liga

Preview: Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole brings you team news, predicted lineups and a full preview of Barcelona's trip to Real Sociedad in La Liga.

Spanish champions Barcelona will attempt to make it four wins from four matches at the start of the 2018-19 La Liga season when they travel to Real Sociedad on Saturday afternoon.

Ernesto Valverde's side currently sit top of the table on nine points, but have only won once away to Sociedad in the league since 2010, although that victory came on their last visit.


Sociedad

Sociedad's 12th-placed finish in La Liga last season was their lowest position since the 2014-15 campaign, and there is no question that their supporters will be looking for an improvement this term.

Indeed, the Basque outfit have finished as high as fourth since returning to the top flight in 2010, and have certainly proved tough opposition for Barcelona in front of their own supporters.

Sociedad have only lost once at home to Barcelona in eight years. That defeat did occur in the corresponding match last term, but there is no getting away from the fact that the Anoeta has been a tough ground for Barcelona.

Now under the leadership of Asier Garitano, Sociedad have started the 2018-19 campaign with four points from three matches. Indeed, they started their season with a 2-1 win at Villarreal, before picking up a point away to Leganes on August 24.

Sociedad suffered a 2-1 defeat at Eibar before the international break, however, and will need to improve if they are to have any chance of securing a return to Europe at the end of the campaign.

Willian Jose scored 15 La Liga goals for Sociedad last term, and the Brazilian has also started this season in impressive fashion, netting twice in three league appearances for the club. The centre-forward is expected to miss out this weekend through injury though in what is a big blow for the hosts.

Sociedad's next two after this match are against newly-promoted sides Huesca and Rayo Vallecano, but they then have back-to-back matches against Valencia and Athletic Bilbao, and will also take on Atletico Madrid before the end of next month.

Recent form: WDL


Barcelona

Barcelona stormed to the La Liga title last season, with the Catalan giants winning 28 of their 38 matches - losing just once - to end the campaign on 93 points.

Atletico Madrid were 14 points behind Barcelona in second, while Real Madrid ended the campaign 17 points behind Barcelona, which is an indication of the type of gap that Los Blancos have to bridge this term.

Barcelona were not at their free-flowing best in their opening two La Liga matches this season, with a 3-0 success over Alaves on the opening weekend flattering, and Ousmane Dembele's effort deciding the clash with Real Valladolid on August 25.

Valverde's side put eight goals past Huesca at Camp Nou before the international break, however, and sit top of the table on nine points from their first three matches of the campaign.

Barcelona are next in action against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Tuesday night, before facing Girona, Leganes and Athletic Bilbao in La Liga fixtures before the end of September.

October will be a very interesting month for Barcelona, meanwhile, with La Liga fixtures against Valencia, Sevilla and Real Madrid, in addition to Champions League clashes against Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan.

Lionel Messi has four La Liga goals to his name this season, while Dembele and Luis Suarez both have two, and it appears that those three will take some stopping this season.

Recent form: WWW


Team News

Barcelona boss Valverde has no fresh injury concerns from the team that beat Huesca before the international break.

Summer arrivals Clement Lenglet, Arthur and Arturo Vidal have thus far struggled to gain a spot in the starting XI, and that is again expected to be the case this weekend.

As a result, Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho will join Sergio Busquets in midfield, while Sergi Roberto is again expected to feature at right-back, leaving Nelson Semedo on the bench.

Sociedad, as mentioned, are expected to be without the services of centre-forward Willian Jose, while Adnan Januzaj is struggling with a knee problem.

Jon Guridi and Diego Llorente will also be absent for the hosts, as will on-loan Everton attacker Sandro Ramirez, who suffered a knee ligament injury during a training session earlier this week.

Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Zaldua, Elustondo, Moreno, Theo; Sangalli, Illarramendi, Zubeldia, Zurutuza; Oyarzabal; Juanmi

Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; Roberto, Umtiti, Pique, Alba; Busquets, Coutinho, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Dembele


Head To Head

As mentioned, Barcelona recorded a 4-2 win away to Sociedad last season, but that was their first league success at the Anoeta since the Basque outfit returned to La Liga in 2010.

Indeed, Barcelona have lost to Sociedad on five of their last eight league visits, and only narrowly overcame the Basque side in the league match at Camp Nou last season.

That said, the Spanish champions have scored 13 times in their last four league matches with their opponents this weekend.


We say: Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona

Sociedad are missing some key players this weekend, and Barcelona will fancy their chances of making it four straight wins at the start of the 2018-19 La Liga campaign. It should be a tight and cagey affair at the Anoeta, but we expect the Spanish champions to emerge victorious.


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