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Where are they from?
San Sebastian (Donostia in the Basque language) is a beautiful city on the north coast, 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.
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).
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 club is currently in a buoyant mood after qualifying for their first Copa del Rey Final since 1988. They won 1-0 at the home of surprise semi-finalists Mirandés on Wednesday to win 3-1 on aggregate. On their way to the final, they also sensationally beat Real Madrid 4-3 at the Santiago Bernabéu.
In the league, Real have been picking up points steadily this season, and although they have dropped out of the top four places, a first Champions League appearance since 2013/14 is still a strong possibility. They’re currently sixth with a game in hand (the match with Atlético was postponed due to poor air quality). They’ve just won three on the trot including a derby victory over Athletic.
International caps: Martin Ødegaard (Norway, 22), Nacho Monreal (Spain, 22), Adnan Januzaj (Belgium, 12), Alexander Isak (Sweden, 12), Mikel Oyarzabal (Spain, 7), Asier Illarramendi (Spain, 3), Diego Llorente (Spain, 5)
Top scorers 2019/20 (all competitions): Alexander Isak (14), Mikel Oyarzabal (9)
A right back for the club in the nineties, Imanol Alguacil is Real Sociedad through and through and 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 Sacristan had been dismissed).
Head to head
Real Sociedad have very much been Barça’s bogey club in recent years, including a run of seven games without a win at their Anoeta stadium, five of which were defeats.
But not only has that negative streak now ended, but it only applied to games in San Sebastian. At Camp Nou, it’s been a very different story. Barça have won a staggering 21 games in a row at home to the Basques, keeping clean sheets in 12 of them.
We have to go all the way back to 1995 to find the last time Real Sociedad got anything out of this fixture, a 1-1 draw, and they haven’t won since 1991.
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