Barcelona travel to the city of San Sebastian in the Basque region to take on Real Sociedad at the Reale Arena for the La Liga encounter on the 22nd of April. Barcelona have had a miserable week where they have been knocked out of the Europa League by Frankfurt and beaten at their own home by Cadiz. Meanwhile, Real Sociedad are unbeaten in their last five games.
Since claiming the fourth position in La Liga in 2013, Real Sociedad have never managed to finish higher than fifth. However, they are currently involved in the fight for a top-four finish this season. Real Sociedad are currently sixth in the standings and are five points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid.
Since losing to league leaders Real Madrid 4-1 at the beginning of March, the Basque side have been in excellent form. They are unbeaten in their last five matches and have picked up 11 points, which includes a goalless stalemate with fifth-placed Real Betis last Friday night.
With that being said, Real Sociedad will still need to win the majority of the final six league matches that remain to have any hopes of finishing in the Champions League spots. They have three relatively straightforward fixtures after the match against Barcelona, where they will be up against Rayo Vallecano, Levante and Cadiz before taking on Villarreal and Atletico Madrid in their last two league matches of the campaign.
Immanol Alguacil’s side has been extremely strong at home in front of their own fans this season. They have secured 32 points from 16 games held at the Reale Arena and have recorded nine wins in that process. However, they will be up against formidable opponents in Barcelona who have the second-best away record in Spain’s domestic league this season. The Catalans have picked up 28 points on the road from 16 games.
Real Sociedad also have a poor recent record against Barcelona, losing nine of their last 10 league matches. They have not been able to defeat the Catalan giants in Spain’s top flight since April 2016 which just goes to show how difficult their task is going to be.
Barcelona, who had been doing so well between February and March, have gone through hell and back in the previous week. The Catalan giants were on a run of seven straight league wins between February 20 and April 10. However, a shock Europa League quarter-final knockout at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt, followed by another upset against Cadiz at the Camp Nou this weekend has left them in tatters.
Xavi’s Barcelona were on a majestic run of scoring and slammed goals for fun against formidable sides like Atletico Madrid, Napoli, Valencia, Athletic Club, and even league leaders Real Madrid. However, Barcelona certainly look like they’ve dropped all intensity and do not have the answers to the questions asked by their opponents.
Camp Nou ended up being the site of disaster last week as nearly 30,000 Eintracht Frankfurt fans took over the stadium and ended up creating a hostile atmosphere at home. Although Barcelona scored twice in the dying embers of the second leg, it wasn’t enough to secure their progress to the semi-final as Eintracht Frankfurt found the back of the net thrice.
The stands were mostly empty in the home fixture against Cadiz as a sign of protest for the mismanagement of tickets. Lucas Perez scored the only goal of the match early in the second 45, and Xavi’s men failed to restore parity in the contest despite throwing on attacking changes in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Adama Traore, and Luuk de Jong from the bench.
Barcelona continue to be second in the table and are level on points with Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in third and fourth place while having a game in hand. It seems unlikely that they will be dragged into the race for the Champions League spots but the Catalans now trail Real Madrid by 15 points at the top. If Los Blancos don’t end up suffering a calamitous end to the season, it will be a season without silverware for Xavi in his first year in charge.
Barcelona are expected to be active in the summer transfer window to fix a lot of glaring issues in the squad despite their current financial constraints. They will be facing Rayo Vallecano, Mallorca in consecutive league matches after this trip to San Sebastian. They will then turn their focus towards Real Betis, Celta Vigo, Getafe, and Villarreal for the final four matches of the campaign.
RSO vs BAR, La Liga 2021/22
Date: 22nd April, 2022
Time: 1:00 AM IST
Venue: Reale Arena, San Sebastian
Real Sociedad La Liga form:
Real Sociedad form (all competitions):
Barcelona La Liga form:
Barcelona form (all competitions):
Real Sociedad wins: 2
Barcelona wins: 19
Real Sociedad Team News: Real Sociedad will be missing the services of Mikel Oyarzabal, Nacho Monreal, Carlos Fernandez and Ander Barrenetxea who are out due to injury. However, veteran midfield maestro David Silva is also going to miss this clash due to suspension.
Silva saw a red card in the previous match against Real Betis which could lead to Immanol Alguacil shuffling things in midfield. Portu should find his place in the front three while Joseba Zaldua is expected to start at right-back after having served his suspension the last time out.
Besides these, Real Sociedad aren’t likely to make too many changes from their goalless draw with Real Betis. The majority of the players are expected to retain their place in the starting XI. Alexander Isak will be spearheading the frontline.
Barcelona Team News: After a couple of months with little to no relative injury concerns, Barcelona have been hit by depressing news once again. Star midfielder Pedri suffered a hamstring injury against Frankfurt last Thursday and had to be taken off. Scans done on him after the match showed that the midfielder will not be available for the remainder of the season.
Samuel Umtiti and Sergi Roberto to continue to be long-term absentees for Barcelona. Meanwhile, center-back Gerard Pique’s participation is also in doubt for this clash as the team management will be in no mood to hurry him and risk getting injured again.
That is also the case with star forward Ansu Fati who has been on the sidelines with a hamstring injury for a long time. Even though he has resumed light training, it is unlikely that he will be included in the matchday squad for the next weeks at the very least.
Uruguayan defender Ronald Araujo will be returning to the starting XI after serving a suspension in the previous game. He is expected to partner Eric Garcia in defence while Gerard Pique might come off from the bench at a point. Youngster Gavi is expected to take Pedri’s spot in midfield.
Memphis Depay, who started the previous game against Cadiz, might start on the bench here and is likely to be replaced by Pierre Emerick Aubameyang.
Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Zaldua, Zubeldia, Le Normand, Rico; Merino, Zubimendi, Rafinha; Isak, Sorloth, Portu
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Ter Stegen; D Alves, Araujo, E Garcia, Alba; F de Jong, Busquets, Gavi; Dembele, Aubameyang, Torres
Barcelona have not quite been firing on all cylinders over the past couple of weeks. They will need a changing of gears as far as the intensity is concerned. However, injuries and suspensions to key players leave Barcelona error-prone, especially at the back, and this could prove to be a tricky game against Real Sociedad who are known to punch well above their weight. Xavi’s side will be desperate to return to winning ways but the Reale Arena is a tough hunting ground.
Meanwhile, the Basque outfit will also be the fresher of the two sides and will have more in the tank. Immanol Alguacil is a shrewd tactician who knows how to outfox big opponents and it wouldn’t be surprising to see this match end in a draw.