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Everything was going so smoothly at FC Barcelona, but a lot changed in the space of just four days. First came elimination from the Europa League at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt, and then on Sunday there was a 1-0 defeat at home to Cádiz.
Nothing can be done to change things in Europe, but in La Liga there’s an immediate chance to set things back on track with a fascinating trip to San Sebastian in the second of three league fixtures in just six days (Thursday 21 April at 9.30pm CEST)
How things stand
Barça are now even further away from the already fading chances of catching Real Madrid at the top of the table. After the Liga leaders won 3-1 at Osasuna on Wednesday night, they were all but mathematically confirmed champions.
However, Barça are still on strong course for what Xavi has always described as the chief objective – a top four finish and a berth in next season’s Champions League.
That mission has just been boosted by two midweek results. The principal outside challenger, Real Betis, lost at home to Elche, while Atlético Madrid could only draw with Granada. Those results have also benefitted sixth placed Real Sociedad, the very side that entertains Barça on Thursday.
So this game is doubly important. Not only can Barça secure three crucial points, but they can also ensure that a sizeable gap remains between themselves and the Basques.
Barça’s defence has been boosted twofold. Gerard Piqué has been declared back to full fitness and is included in the squad, while Ronald Araujo is back after being suspended for the game with Cádiz.
Still absent through injury are Ansu Fati, Pedri, Sergi Roberto and Samuel Umtiti.
"We’ve put our anger behind us and now it’s all about enthusiasm and hope. We need to put this bad patch behind us and fight for a Champions League place … We need a reset and to get the fans excited again.”
“Perhaps we thought it would be easy and didn’t take Cádiz seriously enough. They had the faith that we lacked. We played well but didn’t have that faith … There was no specific problem, it was mainly a mental thing.”
“We changed the system in attack against Cádiz. It wasn’t desperation. It’s what we worked on in training. We needed to find solutions and that meant taking risks.”
“Three weeks ago we were excited about winning the league but it’s a long way off now and we’re looking at second place … It’s not what we wanted but that’s how things are … Things are better than in November but we haven’t won any trophies so we still need to improve. But the main reason they brought me here was to make sure of a Champions League place.”
Did you know?
Real Sociedad were something of a bogey team for Barça for many years. The Catalans once lost five out of six games at the Reale Arena, but now they haven’t lost to the Basques for 11 games, their best run in this fixture for 62 years.
Real are looking to set a club record of eight consecutive home league fixtures without conceding a single goal.
Real have had no fewer than eight 1-0 wins this season, more than any other club in Europe’s top five leagues.
The player with the most previous goals in games between these teams is Mikel Oyarzabal with three. But not fewer than nine different Barça players have scored against Real Sociedad in the past.
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