Three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
La Liga champions Barcelona take on Real Sociedad in their first home game since sealing the title against Espanyol last weekend.
The last time the two teams met this season, Barcelona squeezed out a 1-0 win in the Copa del Rey quarterfinal. Their meeting prior, however, was on the league’s second matchday and it was the Catalans who walked away with a 4-1 win at Reale Arena.
Imanol Alguacil’s side has been one of Spain’s most organised units this season. The Basque club have taken four of a possible six points away from Real Madrid this season and their recent 2-0 win over the Merengues reflects their quality.
Barça Universal brings you three talking points ahead of Barcelona vs Real Sociedad.
1. A fitting end to the fairytale
The story of Barcelona’s 2022-23 La Liga title has been nothing short of a fairytale.
From the Catalans dropping points on the very first matchday to Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season; the first crushing Clasico defeat to the midseason slump; and finally the post-World Cup rejuvenation and squad regrouping, it has been nothing short of a rollercoaster.
The season has not been without heartbreak for Xavi Hernandez’s men. The group stage exit from the UEFA Champions League for the second year in a row, the crushing defeat in Old Trafford, and most recently the 4-0 loss to Real Madrid in the semifinal of the Copa del Rey all go on to show that Barcelona are far from perfect.
Yet, their campaign in La Liga has been about as flawless as it gets. 34 games into the season, they sit on 85 points and have won 27 games. Furthermore, they have conceded just 13 goals all season and have kept a whopping 25 clean sheets.
After close to a year of toiling across Spain and consistently dishing out high-level resilient performances, Barcelona were rewarded with the La Liga title last Sunday. Their win over Espanyol mathematically closed the title race and guaranteed them the tag of champions.
Sergio Busquets will receive the trophy from Luis Rubiales after the game against Real Sociedad on Sunday and it is safe to say that the celebrations in Catalonia will run deep into the night. However, it would only be fitting for them to lift the trophy on the back of a win against La Real.
2. Fielding the fringe names
With the league title now in the bag, Xavi Hernandez has four games in his pocket with no real repercussions. It is rare for a club of Barcelona’s stature to find such a stretch of insignificant games and it is thus vital that the manager uses the same to understand his fringe players.
Reports earlier in the week stated that Barcelona wished not to over-strain young stars like Gavi to avoid another Pedri situation and there will be more rotations from this point in. Yet, it remains to be seen how far Xavi is winning to trust his substitutes.
Both Pedri and Ronald Araujo will miss tomorrow’s clash with mild discomfort, while Gavi is out with suspension. Instead of going down the conservative track, the stage could be right for Xavi to give the likes of Pablo Torre and Marcos Alonso a start.
Further, it could also be a chance for players like Jordi Alba, Eric Garcia, Ansu Fati, and Ferran Torres to prove their worth ahead of the summer transfer window.
3. An opposition with a purpose
Barcelona can afford to lose all their remaining games and still finish on top of the league standings at this point in the season. There is not much riding on Sunday’s result for Xavi’s men but the same cannot be said about Real Sociedad.
Imanol Alguacil’s side sit in fourth place in the standings and are currently poised to make it to the UEFA Champions League. However, Villarreal lurk close behind and fancy their chances of overtaking the Basque outfit.
The visitors on the night just cannot afford to lose for it would allow Villarreal to get within two points of them. Such a development could have a colossal impact on the race for the top four.
La Real will have to push the champions without their star player David Silva on Saturday night, and there suddenly appears to be a significant advantage for Barcelona. Yet, everything on the night will boil down to who needs the win more.