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Real Sociedad are Barça's opponents in the Spanish Super Cup semi final in Córdoba on Wednesday and we take a look at the club from the north of Spain before the clash in the Nuevo Arcángel stadium.
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.
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 1911.
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.
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 23 games in a row at home to the Basques, keeping clean sheets in 13 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 (and that was against a weakened Barça who had already secured the Liga title).
The sides met in December in a rearranged fixture in La Liga at Camp Nou and despite La Real taking the lead through Willian José's effort, goals from Jordi Alba and Frenkie de Jong ensured Barça's amazing streak against the Basques at home continued.
Real Sociedad’s season began tremendously with a run of seven wins in eight games, scoring 20 goals and conceding just three, shooting them to the top of the table. However, a run of just one win in their last nine games in La Liga means that they have dropped to fifth place in the table and out of the Champions League qualification places. The only good news for fans of La Real is that the win came in the Basque derby away at big local rivals Athletic Club.
Real are also competing in the Europa League this season and progressed to the knockout stage as runners-up in their group, behind Napoli but ahead of AZ (Holland) and Rijeka (Croatia). Their reward is a tie against Manchester United in the last 32 of the competition.
They also still have to play the final of last season’s Copa del Rey, which for the first time is between Real and their local rivals Athletic. The game was postponed due to Covid-19 and as yet no new date has been set. In this season's competition the txuri-urdin (white and blue in Basque) will be heading back to the Nuevo Arcángel later in January to take on Córdoba in the last 32 of the 2020/21 competition.
International caps: David Silva (Spain, 125); Nacho Monreal (Spain, 22); Alexander Isak (Sweden, 18); Adnan Januzaj (Belgium, 12); Mikel Oyarzabal (Spain, 11); Mikel Merino (Spain, 6); Asier Illarramendi (Spain, 3)
Top scorers 2020/21 (all competitions): Mikel Oyarzabal (7); Portu (6); Willian José (4)
Barça connections: The links between Barça and Real have traditionally been close and a number of top players have defended the colours of both clubs over the years. These have included legendary 1970s goalkeeper Mikel Urrutikoetxea, ‘Dream Team’ era heroes Jose Mari Bakero, Txiki Beguiristain, Jon Andoni Goikoetxea and Bosnian Meho Kodro, and more recently Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo. The tradition is being continued by Antoine Griezmann, who joined Real at the age of 14 and went on to play 180 games for the first team between 2009 and 2014.
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).
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