Messi against Real Sociedad

They won their two league titles between 1980 and 1982 – a golden era for the club -and in
2007 they were relegated after 40 consecutive seasons in the top flight. Three years later they
were back and last year they finished 15th in the league.

British links

Right from the beginnings of the club, Real had a connection with English football and boasted
two Brits amongst their Cup winning side in 1909. Later on in their history this connection was
taken up by two ex- Liverpool legends John Aldridge and John Toshack – the first as a player
between 1989 and 1991 and the second as coach for three periods between 1985-89, 1991-94
and 2000- 02. Dalian Atkinson was the club’s first black player when he signed from Sheffield
Wednesday in 1980 and Welshman Chris Coleman also managed them between 2007-08.
Perhaps the most curious connection though, is through the manager Harry Lowe, who was
at the club in the 1930s and in 1934 set the record as the oldest player ever to figure in the
Spanish top flight, when he turned out aged 48!

The Barça connection

Barça also have close links with the club, with Dream Team legends Jose Mari Bakero and
Txiki Begiristain and Luis Lopez Rekarte all signing from Real in 1988. Txiki went on to become
Director of Football at Barça between 2003 and 2010. After retiring as a player, Bakero
eventually took the same post as Txiki at Real and then became their manager from 2005-06.

Form Guide

Last season, the Txuri-Urdin - the white and blues -needed a draw in their final game with
Getafe to secure another season in the top flight, though they did manage to beat Barça 2-
1 at Atocha - a result that stopped Guardiola’s team from taking Real’s record of 32 games
unbeaten, which they set in the 79-80 season. After sitting in the relegation zone earlier this
season – and that despite holding Barça to a 2-2 draw at Anoeta – Real are now up to 12th on
24 points. Last week’s 5-1 win over Sporting was a morale booster – though it did follow a 0-
4 beating by Atletico Madrid and a 6-1 thrashing by Mallorca in the Cup earlier in the month.
Real have the seventh best away record in La Liga this season, having won 3, drawn 2 and lost
5 games on the road.

One to watch

Home town boy Xabi Prieto made his debut with Real Sociedad in 2003 when he was just 20
years old. Over the last few years he has established himself as a firm favourite with the fans
and is the current club vice-captain. A skilful midfielder, Prieto is also an expert penalty taker –
as Barça know full well, he scored the winning goal from the spot against them in Donosti last
season.