The lowdown on Real Sociedad

The lowdown on Real Sociedad

A closer look at the Basque club that hosts FC Barcelona on Sunday night

Real Sociedad provide the opposition on Barça's first road trip of the 2022/23 season. Here's the lowdown on the team that the Catalans will be facing in a Sunday 10pm CEST kick-off.

Where are they from?

San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language) is a beautiful city on the north coast of the Iberian Peninsula, in the Basque Country and just 20 km from the French border. It’s relatively small, with a wonderful old district and spectacular scenery overlooking La Concha bay, making it a very popular place to take a city break.


The club

One such visitor was King Alfonso XIII, who used to stay in the city every summer, which is how the ‘Sociedad de Futbol’ (Football Society) came to be called the ‘Real Sociedad’ (Royal Society) in 1909.

The club is now well-established as a regular feature of la Liga, but its truly golden years were 1981 and 1982, when they won back-to-back league titles. Such success has never been repeated, although they have finished second three times since, most recently in 2003.

The cities of San Sebastian and Bilbao have always enjoyed a healthy rivalry, and that means their football clubs too. Like Athletic, Real once operated a Basque-only policy, but broke that tradition in 1989 when John Aldridge became their first foreign import.

Incidentally, when you hear Spaniards speak of ‘La Real’, they mean Real Sociedad. ‘El Real’, using the masculine, typically means Real Madrid.


The venue

Anoeta, currently known as the Reale Arena for sponsorship purposes, was opened in 1993 as a replacement for the historic Atocha ground of days gone by. Following further expansion work, it now seats 19,500 people. It has also been used for major club rugby fixtures played by French outfit Biarritz Olympique, and was the venue for the 2020 Women’s Champions League Final.

Head to head

After Barça failed to win any of eight league and cup games in San Sebastian between 2011 and 2016, in a remarkable turnaround in events, they have since gone for eight games without losing at the Reale Arena. Get the full story here:


Form guide

As they also had been the season before, Real Sociedad were in strong contention for a Champions League place for much of the 2021/22 campaign, but eventually finished sixth and had to settle for the Europa League.

Last season, they made it to the quarter finals of Europe's second tier competition, eventually going out to fellow Liga side Real Betis.

Preseason friendlies
Real Sociedad 0–1 Toulouse
Borussia Mönchengladbach 1–1 Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad 1–0 Osasuna
Bournemouth 1–2 Real Sociedad
Real Sociedad 1–2 Eibar
Athletic Club 1–0 Real Sociedad (in Barakaldo)

They got their current Liga campaign off to a winning start, 1-0 away to Cadiz, with Takefusa Kubo scoring the only goal. 

The players

There have been a number of departures this summer, including Willian José (to Real Betis), Mathew Ryan (to Copenhagen), Alexander Sørloth (loan return to Leipzig), Nacho Monreal (retirement) and Adnan Januzaj (released).

The main arrivals are French forward Mohamed-Ali Cho (from Angers), Spanish midfielder Brais Méndez (from Celta Vigo) and Japenese winger Takefusa Kubo (from Real Madrid).

Most International caps
David Silva (Spain, 125); Alexander Isak (Sweden, 37);; Mikel Oyarzabal (Spain, 21); Takefusa Kubo (Japan, 18); Mikel Merino (Spain, 11)

Barça connections
Japanese winger Takefusa Kubo spent four years of his youth at La Masia. After returning to Japan, he then spent four years on the books at Real Madrid, but on loan to different Spanish clubs, eventually joining Real Sociedad this summer.

Midfielder Robert Navarro, born in Barcelona but brought up in Pamplona, was at La Masia for five years but made his professional debut at Monaco, where he became the club's youngest ever debutant. He's been at Real since 2020 and has just been given a permanent first team place.

The manager

A right back for the club in the nineties, Imanol Alguacil is Real Sociedad through and through. He has been part of its coaching setup for the best part of the last decade. After Asier Garitano was fired in December 2018, he took command of the first team (having previously already done so temporarily after Eusebio Sacristán had been dismissed), and has been in the post ever since. Alguacil has guided the team to three consecutive top six finishes and hence Europa League qualification.

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