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Match Previews

Barcelona vs Real Sociedad: Match Preview

Anurag Agate

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Photo by LLUIS GENE/Getty Images

A fixture which would usually have the Catalans as favourites now favours La Liga leaders Real Sociedad as Barcelona will look to build upon their victory against Levante at the Camp Nou. Barça Universal brings you the preview for this mouth-watering clash.


Date and kick-off time: Sunday, 13th December 2020, 21:00 CET

Stadium: Camp Nou

Competition: La Liga, Matchday 14

Referee: Jose Maria Sanchez Martinez


Overview

Ronald Koeman’s Barcelona has had a rough start to the season, to say the least. With only 17 points out of a possible 33, the discontent surrounding the Blaugrana is understandable. On the other hand, Imanual Alguacil’s Real Sociedad has overperformed all expectations. 26 points in 13 matches means they are at the top of the table as they have played two matches more than their opponents tomorrow.

Real Sociedad have been an entertaining watch this season. However, the last 6 matches in all competitions have led to six draws. As much as La Liga fanatics would want La Real’s wonderous run to continue, there have been injuries to two of the most important players, Mikel Oyarzabal and David Silva, which have contributed to a dip in the form.

Though this has given more chances to players such as Ander Barrenetxea, the team has lacked the incisiveness and efficiency they displayed earlier. On the other hand, Barcelona are showing positive signs.

Things as small as the change of Frenkie De Jong‘s position in the last match, and the new formation employed by Koeman have resulted in a good performance against Levante, The scoreline suggests a narrow victory, but the xG of 2.62 paints a better picture. This has not yet done enough in helping forget the loss to Juventus in the Champions League though.

This is a matchup of two teams that look to play attacking football and keep possession. Real Sociedad have been a strong force this season, whereas Barcelona have been a shadow of their past selves. Despite this, Barcelona should have a good chance of getting a point or three from this encounter as Sociedad remain win-less in their past six games.

What to expect from Barcelona?

Under Ronald Koeman, Barcelona have lined up in a 4-2-3-1 most often. Against Levante, a 4-3-3 was used, which was essentially a 4-1-4-1 at times. It won’t be a surprise to see the Dutchman revert to a 4-2-3-1 as the pivots would provide better cover defensively on paper. However, this sacrifices the sustained attacking play the interior midfielders provide.

Some aspects of Barcelona’s tactics have been consistent throughout this season. Building up from the back is a non-negotiable, with the full-backs stretching the pitch.

Alba will have to run the flank alone in the absence of Dembele and Fati. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

In a double pivot, one pivot would be more mobile and the other more of an anchor. Multiple players with a free role upfront is also a common characteristic for this Blaugrana side. This has caused problems to surface due to lack of directness down the wings. With Ousmane Dembele and Ansu Fati injured, the same problem could resurface.

Against Sociedad, we can expect Barcelona to keep a high defensive line as always. Intense pressing in midfield will be necessary, as the more time you allow Sociedad on the ball, the threatening they are. In attack, quick combinational play will be key but only with the right runs. Hence, Antoine Griezmann will most likely play a crucial role for Barcelona.

What to expect from Real Sociedad?

Looking purely at formations, Aguacil’s side has played in a 4-2-3-1, a 4-3-3 and a 4-1-4-1. However, these are slight tweaks that essentially lead to the same player roles and positioning to an extent. For example, in all the formations, the pivot drops back into midfield to build-up from the back, the full-backs stretch the pitch and move high up. Following this, progression through the middle is preferred. At times, the striker will be alone upfront as the winger drop back to create overloads.

The truly venomous quality that this Sociedad side possess is their unpredictability and versatility. Ander Guevara, who can comfortably defend on the counter as well as progress the ball when building-up and Mikel Merino with his ability to contribute from the middle of the park as well as down the left-wing are just two of many examples.

No Oyarzabal makes the job that much easier for Barcelona. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

The most dangerous of these threats, however, is Mikel Oyarzabal. A graduate of Sociedad’s academy, Oyarzabal is the second coming of what Xabi Prieto meant to the city. A product of their youth academy and a born leader, he is incredibly influential on the pitch with and without the ball. However, Oyarzabal, along with David Silva, will miss the match as neither of them has been given medical clearance.

With these two key players out, Sociedad will rely on Adnan Januzaj more than usual. Ander Barrenetxea is another player to keep an eye on.

Player to watch

Mikel Merino

One of the best midfielders in the league this season, Mikel Merino is at the heart of everything that Sociedad do. With a goal and two assists in La Liga so far this season, he contributes to the attack as well. Primarily though, Merino is most adept at contributing to the build-up and maintaining possession.

Merino is a sensational talent. (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

Alongside Guevara, the two pivots have been excellent in midfield for La Real. Merino’s late runs into the box are something that could be a huge nuisance to the Catalans, especially as they have not been impressive in terms of their marking and communication in the box. The young Spaniard doesn’t shy away from contributing to the press either. With 35, he has committed the most fouls this season in La Liga.


Form

FC Barcelona

Previous games: WLLWW

Barcelona 1-0 Levante | La Liga
Barcelona 0–3 Juventus | UEFA Champions League
Cadiz 2–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Ferencvárosi 0–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 4–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Dynamo Kyiv 0–4 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League

Position in La Liga

8th
17 points in 11 games
5 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses
21 Goals Scored, 11 Goals Conceded
+10 Goal Difference

Real Sociedad

Previous games: DDDDD

Real Sociedad 1–1 Eibar | La Liga
Napoli 1–1 Real Sociedad | UEFA Europa League
Alaves 0-0 Real Sociedad | La Liga
Real Sociedad 2-2 Rijeka | UEFA Europa League
Real Sociedad 1-1 Villareal | La Liga

Position in La Liga

1st
26 points in 13 games
7 wins, 5 draws, 1 losses
23 Goals Scored, 6 Goals Conceded
+17 Goal Difference

Head-to-head record

Previous meetings

Barcelona 1–0 Real Sociedad| La Liga 19/20
Real Sociedad 2–2 Barcelona | La Liga 18/19
Barcelona 2-1 Real Sociedad | La Liga 18/19
Real Sociedad 1-2 Barcelona | La Liga 17/18
Barcelona 1–0 Real Sociedad | La Liga 17/18


Match facts

  • Barcelona have won the last 22 home matches against Real Sociedad in La Liga.
  • Real Sociedad’s Adnan Januzaj has been involved in a goal each in his last three La Liga away games.
  • Imanol Alguacil has no wins from four matches managed against Barcelona.

Team News

FC Barcelona

Absences

Injured:  Gerard Pique (knee), Ansu Fati (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Ousmane Dembele (Strain)
Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4–2–3–1:

Marc-André ter Stegen
Dest · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
Busquets · de Jong 
Messi · Griezmann · Coutinho
Braithwaite

Coach: Ronald Koeman

Real Sociedad

Absences

Injured:  Miguel Ángel Moyá, Jon Guridi, Asier Illarramendri, Luca Sangalli, Mikel Oyarzabal, David Silva, Álex Sola
Suspended: N/A

Possible line-up

4–2-3-1

Remiro
Gorosabel · Le Normand · Zubeldia · Monreal
Merino · Guevara 
Januzaj · Lopez · Barrenetxea
Jose

Coach: Imanol Alguacil


Prediction

Real Sociedad have been a powerful team this season. On the other hand, Barcelona have struggled a lot. Despite this, Sociedad’s key absences combined with the recent dip in form should mean Barcelona have a good chance of getting three points from this fixture.

Barça Universal Prediction: 2-0 win for the Catalans.

18, living in India, obsessed with Barcelona and Spanish football. I am into football in any form: watching, playing, reading about, writing about...In particular, I'm very interested in youth football, especially La Masía. I try to learn more about the tactical side of football as well.

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Match Previews

Predicted Barcelona lineup against Elche — Trincao to start, Lenglet benched

Adithya Eshwarla

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Photo via Imago

Barcelona continue to fall; the draw to Cadiz could not come at a worse time for a squad healing from humiliation and devastation. When they had the ideal chance to close the gap on Atletico Madrid, the Blaugranas once again fell meekly to inflict damage to themselves

However, hope still lives on in the league. It may be faint, but it is a reason for Barcelona to fight on. The league continues with the clash against Elche on Wednesday. Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Elche.

Defence

Hopes in the league are getting dire indeed, as Barcelona continue to dig their own Grave. With yet another opportunity to close the gap squandered, Marc Andre ter Stegen will certainly start in goal. After all, this is not the time for rotation

The centre back crisis worsens day by day. Clement Lenglet has been largely scapegoated, however, the errors in the team are far beyond an individual level. On the night, Gerard Pique and Oscar Mingueza would be the ideal pairing, given Araujo’s yet impending return to action. As for Samuel Umtiti, it seems after his performance against Sevilla, his time with Barcelona is limited.

Mingueza deserves more time on the pitch. (Photo via Imago)

At left-back, Jordi Alba will continue to rack up another start as Koeman looks to get guaranteed points on the board. The Spaniard’s abilities will need to be utilised to the fullest for the Catalans to turn their season around.

One of the positives from the game against Cadiz was the positive performance from Sergino Dest. On the back of that stellar attacking display, there seem to be no doubts on the USMNT star’s start on Wednesday.

Midfield

After starting two games in a row, Sergio Busquets might well be rested on the night. The Spaniard would ideally be replaced by Miralem Pjanic, who could orchestrate the Catalan attack from the shadows. Though the Bosnian has received backlash for his extensive sideways passing, he has hardly put a for wrong when given the chance.

The midfield would ideally be completed by Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig. The Dutchman has more or less kept up his great start to the year, and the renwed role sees him in the box more often than not, thereby providing his side with a target man.

Another chance for Riqui to make a name for himself on the pitch. (Photo via Imago)

Riqui, on the other hand, would be a like for like replacement for Pedri, who has been criminally overused. The La Masia star provides a similar output, and it’s one risk that might be worth taking for the manager

Forward

It is criminal how Fransisco Trincao has pulled up stellar performances when given a chance, yet not rewarded with a start. Tonight could be the night for the winger, as he could start on the right-wing.

Trincao deserved to start on the weekend, too. But, alas. (Photo via Imago)

Lionel Messi will continue to lead the side from the front, acting as the centre forward and playmaker as he always does. The Argentine’s performance has a gigantic effect on the outcome, and once again, he will prove to be decisive.

Antoine Greizmann will complete the lineup on the left-wing. The Frenchman has seen a sudden low after a great start to the season. This is the time for him to put a stop to the lows and once again welcome the highs.

Griezmann · Messi · Trincao
Puig · Pjanic · de Jong
Alba · Pique · Mingueza · Dest
ter Stegen

Substitutions

Ousmane Dembele as always will be a worthy weapon on the bench for Ronald Koeman. His speed, agility and dribbling could well unlock the tight defence.

Pedri too will likely be called up in the second half. Barcelona with the 18-year-old are a totally different beast. The difference is conspicuous and startling! He will be decisive on the night.

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