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Following the Champions League defeat in Turin, FC Barcelona return to Liga action (Saturday 8.45pm CET) with lost ground to make up ahead of next week’s showdown with the leaders in El Clásico. Real Madrid, who play Sporting Gijón earlier on in the day, are currently three points clear with a game in hand, so the defending champions will settle for nothing less than a win.
Fortunately, Barça’s record at home to Real Sociedad is staggeringly positive in recent years, and even with key players missing yet another defeat of the Basques is very much on the cards (THIS WAY FOR TICKETS)
After being red-carded against Málaga, Neymar Jr will be sitting this game out through suspension, while Javier Mascherano picked up a calf injury this week. Arda Turan has been able to train normally but has yet to be given the green light after an absence with a groin injury. Rafinha and Aleix Vidal, of course, are certainly side-lined with more long term fitness issues.
The squad of 18 named on Saturday morning is as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis Suárez, Iniesta, Luis Suárez, Messi, Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Sergi Roberto, André Gomes, Umtiti, Mathieu, Aleñá (28) and Cardona (39).
Apart from right back Carlos Martínez being out until the end of the season, the main fitness concerns for Real concern Imanol Agirretxe and Álvaro Odriozola, while striker Juanmi is out though suspension.
Speaking before the game, Barça boss Luis Enrique said that “we will go up against one of the toughest opponents in the closing stages of the season for the way they attack and defend ... We want to have a chance of winning the league, and that begins with a win against Real Sociedad ... We are in the process of correcting the errors we have made and I am sure that the team will show up.”
His counterpart Eusebio Sacristán, a former FCB player and reserve team coach, offered that “they are coming off two negative results, but Barça are still Barça, a strong team that creates loads of chances. They’re just as fearsome this week, if not more. It’s an opponent that’s going to be well focused on winning and making up for their last two results.”
Barça may have failed to score away to Málaga and Juventus, but there are no questions marks as far as their home form is concerned, and three points on Saturday would make it nine wins in a row in LaLiga.
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, are sixth and still well in the hunt for a Europa League berth despite their 3-1 victory against Sporting on Monday being their first win in five games. Outside of the top two, no team in the league can boast as many away wins (eight) as the Basques.
Barça have not won a league game in San Sebastian since Real returned to the top flight in 2011, but when the Catalans have home advantage it’s a very different story. Barça have won the last 18 editions of this fixture, a record stretching back 22 years, and in four of the last nine have netted five goals.
The last time Real Sociedad got a point at the Camp Nou was in 1995, when Eusebio was still playing for FCB, and they haven’t won since 1991 (the day after Johan Cruyff’s team had already been confirmed champions).
The teams drew 1-1 when they met at Anoeta earlier this season (HIGHLIGHTS), and also met in the Copa del Rey quarter finals. Barça won 1-0 on the road and then confirmed passage to the semis with a 5-2 win on home turf. You can watch highlights of both those games here and here.
CoverageAs always, the game is being screened in almost every corner of the the world, but if you are one of the unfortunate few who won’t be able to watch on TV for whatever reason, you can always tune into our live English language commentary on Radio Barça. The link will appear on the homepage shortly before kick-off. Not forgetting of course that we’ll have updates of all the action as it happens on our official Twitter feed.
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