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After their nine-point lead in La Liga was cut to six following defeat in El Clásico, FC Barcelona are away to Real Sociedad on Saturday at 8.30pm. And as the results of recent visits to San Sebastian clearly show, this is not an easy fixture. In fact, manager Luis Enrique went as far as to describe it as the “most difficult away game in the league.”
Luis Suárez, who scored both goals against Atlético midweek, is suspended for this game, while Aleix Vidal, Sandro Ramirez and Jeremy Mathieu are all ruled out through injury. Adriano, however, is back in the squad after recovering from his hamstring injury and this may be the moment for Rafinha to play his first league football in six months after coming on as a late substitute in Tuesday’s Champions League game.
It has been confirmed that Real’s first-choice defender Iñigo Martínez will not be able to play on Saturday, his name added to an injury list that also includes Navas, Canales, Agirretxe, Olazabal and Carlos Martínez. To heighten the woes at Anoeta, Markel and Yuri are suspended.
“I don't think there's a team in Spain that has been as successful against us as they have” said Luis Enrique on Friday. “These three points would be a big help after having gone so many years without winning there. The only thing we can't do tomorrow is relax. We have to be intense. The players know that.”
Former Barça B coach Eusebio, now in charge at Real, refuses to believe that Barça’s minds will be distracted by their Champions League contest with Atlético. “The great thing about Barcelona in recent years is not just their players and managers” he says. “It’s also the intensity and concentration that they put into every single game.”
Barça’s 39-match unbeaten streak came to an end last week with 2-1 defeat at home to Real Madrid. But they are still six points clear at the top of the table and have not lost a game on the road in any competition since October.
Real Sociedad have moved four places up to tenth in La Liga since Eusebio took over from David Moyes in November. They got an impressive win away to Sevilla last week, but that result came on the came on the back of a poor run of three defeats and two draws.
Barça have not dropped a point against Real at the Camp Nou since 1995, but games at Anoeta are a very different story, where the Catalans have only won on two of their last ten league visits.
Since Real Sociedad won promotion back to the top flight in 2010, they have never lost at home to Barça, and also held the Catalans to a draw at Anoeta in the Copa del Rey two years ago.
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