League leaders Barcelona will look to continue their charge toward the Spanish Primera crown when they travel to face tricky Real Sociedad away on Sunday.
Group Clubs Anoeta, San Sebastian, Spain
Key Stat: Messi has scored a goal in three of the last four encounters with Real Sociedad.
Expert Verdict: With an ace in the hole like Lionel Messi and a lot of confidence coming back to the club after recent results and the arrival of Philippe Coutinho in the last week, Barcelona are just about back to their best. The trip to Sociedad is never easy, but given how the home side are playing, it is going to be difficult for them to get a result against Barca.
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Eusebio Sacristan remains without left back Alberto de la Bella, winger Adnan Januzaj, and forward Imanol Agirretxe due to injuries. Winger Carlos Vela has officially left the club for LA FC in MLS.
Real Sociedad as a team have struggled quite a bit so far this season, but their main man in attack Willian Jose has once again flourished for them. The Brazilian is still an underrated quality in a market that is steeply overpaying at the moment. He has scored seven goals already in La Liga this season, with six of them coming as the very first goal of the match. He is a major threat to score, even against a team of the Catalans' quality.
Sociedad have three losses, a win, and a draw in their last five matches:
1-0 loss at Leganes
3-1 home win vs Sevilla
0-0 draw at Athletic Bilbao
0-2 home loss vs Malaga
1-3 home loss vs Zenit (UEL)
Defenders:Odriozola, Llorente, Raul Navas, Inigo Martinez
Midfielders:Zurutuza, Illarramendi, Prieto
Forwards:Canales, Oyarzabal, Willian
Ernesto Valverde is without striker Paco Alcacer, center back Samuel Umtiti and new midfield signing Philippe Coutinho due to injuries.
With their tie with Celta Vigo in doubt ahead of the second leg on Thursday, Valverde had no choice but to play a strong side led by the likes of Lionel Messi up front. And they did not disappoint whatsoever with the Argentine dynamo going off for two goals and an assist inside the first 28 minutes of the match. He was even off the pitch by the hour mark, making it both a successful appearance and a restful one as well.
Barca have four wins and a draw in their last five matches:
5-0 home win vs Celta Vigo (Copa del Rey)
3-0 home win vs Levante
1-1 draw at Celta Vigo (Copa del Rey)
0-3 win at Real Madrid
4-0 home win vs Deportivo La Coruna
Defenders:Roberto, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
Midfielders:Dembele, Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta
In 46 meetings, Real Sociedad have had very little success against Barcelona. Barca have taken 28 wins, ten draws, and have lost just eight times so far. Here's a look at the last five results:
Apr 15, 2017: Barca 3-2 Sociedad
Jan 26, 2017: Barca 5-2 Sociedad (Copa del Rey)
Jan 19, 2017: Sociedad 0-1 Barca (Copa del Rey)
Nov 27, 2016: Sociedad 1-1 Barca
Apr 9, 2016: Sociedad 1-0 Barca
Bet365 have the following odds available for this match:
Real Sociedad are at 11/2 to win, a draw is at 4/1, and a Barcelona win is at 4/9.
Real Sociedad come into this round of fixtures all the way down in a lowly 12th place. This is not the sort of position that they will feel like they should be in, but given how inconsistent they are on a year-to-year basis, this is not a shock. They have the players to be much better than a team that has 23 points from 18 matches, but sometimes chemistry gets in the way. They have lost three of their last five and have four points from their last three matches. Barcelona come into this match in first place in La Liga with 48 points to their names and a nine point gap over second place Atletico Madrid. They have yet to lose a match and have only lost three times. They have given up just seven goals total.
The Royals come into this contest with a perfectly even home record of three wins, three draws, and three losses through nine matches. They have earned at least a point from four of their last five matches, but they still are down in the bottom half when home form is only taken into consideration. They did at least win their last home match, so that is a bright spot. Barca, of course, are unbeaten away from home, but they have drawn two of their three matches away from the Camp Nou. One of those matches came three matches back, but that won't bother them too much after winning the two after it ahead of this match.
A no for both teams to score is at 27/20 at Ladbrokes.
Barcelona have not been able to go to Sociedad and dominate in the last three meetings, so don't expect to see them run the score up here. With that said, though, their defence has improved and will allow them to see off a lot flurry by the hosts.