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This Sunday at 9.00pm CET, FC Barcelona will be looking to continue their fabulous form in la Liga, where a run of 17 games without defeat has seen them shoot up the table to second place, going into the weekend just four points adrift of leaders Atlético Madrid. The away form has been especially spectacular, eight straight wins is one of the club’s finest streaks on the road of all-time.
But the Reale Arena, home of Real Sociedad, is never an easy place to visit. Barça recently had a streak of seven league games in a row without a win in San Sebastian, and the blue-and-whites are having a strong season. They were the early leaders in La Liga and although their form dropped heading into 2021, they seem to have found their touch again and are currently fifth in the table.
La Liga: How it stands
Leaders Atlético Madrid’s game at home to Alavés will have just finished when this one is about to begin. After going out of the Champions League to Chelsea midweek, the league is Atlético’s only remaining target this season, but a recent lull in form means they are no longer the runaway leaders they were a couple of months ago.
Real Madrid moved up to second, hopefully only temporarily, with a 3-1 win at Celta on Saturday afternoon. And fourth placed Sevilla managed to grand a late equaliser in Valladolid (1-1), thanks to goalkeeper Bono of all people, but the two dropped points mean the gap is now even wider between them and the top three.
Last five meetings
3/01/21 (SPANISH SUPER CUP) Real Sociedad 1 FC Barcelona 1 (De Jong) Barça won on penalties
16/12/20 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 2 (Alba, De Jong) Real Sociedad 1
07/03/20 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 1 (Messi) Real Sociedad 0
14/12/19 (LIGA) Real Sociedad 2 FC Barcelona 2 (Griezmann, Suárez)
20/04/19 (LIGA) FC Barcelona 2 (Lenglet, Alba) Real Sociedad 2
Sergi Roberto was able to train with the squad on Saturday but he’s still not ready for selection. Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Piqué and Ansu Fati are also out injured.
Real Sociedad have had plenty of injury woes of late, but David Silva, Martín Zubimendi and Carlos Fernández have all been cleared for this game, although Nacho Monreal and Aritz Elustondo are still unavailable.
The coaches’ views
"We’re right behind the leaders, but any game we don’t win makes it harder. This is our third game against Real Sociedad and they’re one of the best teams in the competition, with a coach who’ll make it an interesting tactical battle … I don’t think they’ll be distracted by the cup final because there’s an international break in between and they have time to worry about Athletic later.”
"It’s important that we have a president and a future, it means we are all more settled. For us not so much, our job is to go out and play, but for the club it’s very important to have Joan Laporta as the president.”
"I’m not going to talk about the double. Things can change in a second. Not so long ago they were saying we’re rubbish … We’ll just take things a game at a time, there’s still a long way to go.”
“Ansu Fati is taking longer to recover than we expected. He’s working hard in the gym, and he’ll be back on the pitch when he’s ready.”
“Leo Messi and Frenkie de Jong are one game away from suspension, but that’s the way it is. I’m not going to rest them. If they get booked, I’ll just have to play someone else. They’re important players, but tomorrow’s game is important too.”
Real Sociedad manager Imanol Alguacil:
“We’ve come close to beating Barça recently. We very nearly had them last time but didn’t get the goals we could have. I’m more concerned about Sunday’s game than the cup final. If we can compete well in this game it means we are also ready to compete in the final.”
“Messi is unstoppable. No team, coach or player can stop Messi, and as long as he stays strong, which seems to be the case, he’ll keep going. He struggled with his game early on in the season, but now he’s back at his best and there is no stopping him. Would I be glad to see the back of him? He’s a luxury for LaLiga, we should enjoy the fact he’s here, but on Sunday we’ll have to do all we can prevent him from appearing.”
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