Good afternoon and welcome to Sports Mole
's live coverage of the La Liga clash between Real Sociedad
and Barcelona from the Anoeta. Now under the leadership of Asier Garitano
, Sociedad have started the 2018-19 campaign with four points from three matches. Spanish champions Barcelona, meanwhile, have won all three of their La Liga matches this season to top the table on nine points. Stay tuned for what should be a very interesting game of football!
Barcelona recorded a 4-2 win away to Sociedad last season, but that was their first league success at the Anoeta since the Basque outfit returned to La Liga in 2010. Indeed, Barcelona have lost to Sociedad on five of their last eight league visits, and only narrowly overcame the Basque side in the league match at Camp Nou last season. That said, the Spanish champions have scored 13 times in their last four league matches with their opponents this weekend. Will we have goals this afternoon?
Right, without further ado, let me bring you up-to-speed with the all-important team news from the Anoeta. Barcelona have had a number of players away on international duty, but the majority of the Sociedad squad have had a nice rest. Let's have a look at the two XIs for this match-up...
SOCIEDAD: Rulli; Zaldua, Aritz, Moreno, Theo; Zurutuza, Illarramendi, Pardo, Zubeldia, Oyarzabal; Juanmi
BARCELONA: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Roberto, Rakitic, Rafinha; Dembele, Suarez, Messi
So there we have it. Sociedad are without the services of Willian Jose, who has netted twice in three league appearances this season. As a result, Ruben Pardo comes in to boost the midfield, with Juanmi selected as the lone forward. David Zurutuza also comes into the side as Luca Sangalli drops out. On-loan Real Madrid defender Theo Hernandez again features at left-back.
As for Barcelona, head coach Ernesto Valverde has made two changes to the team that started against Huesca before the international break, with Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho both dropping out. Nelson Semedo's addition at right-back sees Sergi Roberto move into midfield, while Rafinha is also handed a spot in the XI. Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembele
and Luis Suarez
The two teams are in, and we are now just about 40 minutes from kickoff at the Anoeta. I shall talk about Sociedad a little bit later, but let's start with the visitors Barcelona. Ernesto Valverde's side were not at their free-flowing best in their opening two La Liga matches of the season, with a 3-0 success over Alaves on the opening weekend fairly flattering, and Ousmane Dembele's excellent effort deciding what was a very tight clash with Real Valladolid on August 25.
Valverde's side put eight goals past Huesca at Camp Nou before the international break, however, and sit top of the table on nine points from their first three matches of the campaign. Real Madrid have also won all three of their fixtures this term, and they travel to Athletic Bilbao tonight.
Barcelona stormed to the La Liga title last season, with the Catalan giants winning 28 of their 38 matches - losing just once - to end the campaign on 93 points. Atletico Madrid were 14 points behind Barcelona in second, while Real Madrid ended the campaign 17 points behind Barcelona, which is an indication of the type of gap that Los Blancos have to bridge this term.
Barcelona are next in action against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League on Tuesday night, before facing Girona, Leganes and Athletic Bilbao in La Liga fixtures before the end of September. October will be a very interesting month, meanwhile, with La Liga fixtures against Valencia, Sevilla and Real Madrid, in addition to Champions League clashes with Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan.
Lionel Messi has four La Liga goals to his name this season, while Dembele and Luis Suarez both have two, and it appears that those three will take some stopping this season. All three start for the Catalan giants this afternoon, and Sociedad have a real task on their hands!
Sociedad's 12th-placed finish in La Liga last season was their lowest position since the 2014-15 campaign, and there is no question that their supporters will be looking for an improvement this term. Indeed, the Basque outfit have finished as high as fourth since returning to the top flight in 2010, and have certainly proved tough opposition for Barcelona in front of their own supporters.
Now under the leadership of Asier Garitano
, Sociedad have started the 2018-19 campaign with four points from three matches. Indeed, they started their season with a 2-1 win at Villarreal, before picking up a point away to Leganes on August 24. Sociedad suffered a 2-1 defeat at Eibar before the international break, however, and will need to improve if they are to have any chance of securing a return to Europe at the end of the campaign. Kickoff is less than 15 minutes away now!
Sociedad's next two after this match are against newly-promoted sides Huesca and Rayo Vallecano, but they then have back-to-back matches against Valencia and Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao, and will also take on Atletico Madrid before the end of next month.
Here we go then; both sets of players have joined us on the pitch ahead of kickoff at the Anoeta. Can Barcelona make it back-to-back wins on this ground? Stay tuned to find out!
KICKOFF: Sociedad kick things off this afternoon...
... it must be said that there is a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium this afternoon. Sociedad are missing their main source of goals in this match, and Barcelona will fancy their chances of picking up all three points. Some decent possession for the hosts early on here.
Not too much to report in terms of attacking intent in the opening few minutes, but Barcelona have had the ball for the last couple of minutes, with Pique and Umtiti both striding forward.
Pardo is quite advanced for Sociedad at the moment, with the number 14 joining Juanmi when the home side have possession of the ball. Still no chances to report in the early minutes here.
Just a reminder that Barcelona have won all three of their league matches this season, while Sociedad have four points from their three fixtures. Willian Jose is absent for the home side this afternoon, while Barcelona boss Valverde has left Busquets and Coutinho on the bench.
Smart work from Semedo as the right-back breaks into a crossing position before delivering low into the Sociedad box, but there are no takers. The visitors force a corner moments later, and it is played short before the danger is cleared. Still no real chances with 11 minutes on the clock.
GOAL! SOCIEDAD 1-0 BARCELONA (ELUSTONDO)
Oh my word! Sociedad take the lead in the 13th minute of the match as central defender Elustondo smashes the ball past Ter Stegen! A deep free kick had caused problems inside the Barcelona box, and it fell for Elustondo, who fired the ball in off the post. Some strike!
Not too much in the way of a response from Barcelona. Instead Sociedad are pressing forward as they look for a second. Juanmi has just made a mess of an effort just outside the box.
We have not seen anything from Messi or Suarez in the first 18 minutes of this match.
Suarez breaks into a dangerous position for Barcelona, but the striker just goes too wide and there are no takers on his cross back into the box. Eventually Sociedad have a free kick.
The atmosphere inside the Anoeta is brilliant, and Barcelona are really struggling to get going at the moment. Sociedad continue to press forward with 22 minutes on the clock here.
Sociedad continue to impress as they attack down the left through Hernandez.
Hernandez continues to find space in a wide position, and the defender is given a huge cheer as the chases down a loose touch from Semedo. Nothing much at all from Barcelona at the moment.
SHOT! Messi has a strike from distance, but it is harmlessly wide of the post.
Just is not happening for Barcelona at the moment as Messi loses the ball outside the Sociedad box. Roberto had looked to force it in a tight area, but Sociedad are so tight at the back. Juanmi then looks to out-pace Pique down the other end, but the centre-back just does enough.
Barcelona are having a lot of the ball in Sociedad's half of the field, but nothing to write home about as the home side continue to deal with the danger. The home side have a good shape.
Little over 10 minutes of the first period remaining. Chances - for both teams - have been few and far between. The pair are still separated by that wonderful strike from Elustondo.
Hernandez again breaks down the left for Sociedad and delivers the ball into a dangerous area, but there are no takers. That is where Willian Jose would have been had be been fit.
CHANCE! Easily Barcelona's best chance as Pique heads a corner just wide of the post!
Zaldua has a tough battle against Dembele at the moment, and the Sociedad defender is doing very well indeed. Barcelona are having loads of the ball though so Sociedad must be careful.
Barcelona have a free kick outside the Sociedad box as Suarez is felled...
... Messi delivers a dangerous free kick into the Sociedad box, but Hernandez does extremely well to head behind under pressure. The resulting corner is then dealt with by the home side.
Huge penalty shout for Barcelona as Pique goes down inside the box. VAR?!
Pique was seemingly pulled to the ground inside the Sociedad box. VAR was checked, but a corner is awarded. Barcelona are not happy, and Rakitic heads the resulting corner over.
YELLOW CARD! Illarramendi (Sociedad) is booked for dissent.
The officials are checking for another penalty here. Suarez wants handball.
Moreno was the player who looked to handle inside the box, but again nothing is given.
HALF TIME: SOCIEDAD 1-0 BARCELONA
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Barcelona trailing Sociedad 1-0 courtesy of that excellent strike from Elustondo. The visitors were certainly on top in the latter stages of the first half, and the whistle has come at a good time for Sociedad.
STATISTICS! Barcelona had 68% of the ball in the first period, but only one of their three attempts were on target, and they struggled in the first 35 minutes of the contest. Sociedad, meanwhile, hit the target with both of their attempts. Illarramendi is the only player on a card.
BENCH WATCH! Barcelona boss Valverde has an embarrassment of riches on his bench this afternoon, with Busquets, Coutinho, Munir and Vidal among those available. As for Sociedad, Willian Jose is missing through injury, but Merino, Navas, Rodrigues and Sangalli are in reserve.
KICKOFF: Barcelona resume the action in the second period...
... BARCELONA SUB! Coutinho has replaced Semedo at the interval.
No changes from Sociedad at the break, which is not a surprise. It will be very interesting to see how both teams start the second period. Sociedad cannot afford to sit back and defend here.
Possession football for Barcelona at the moment as they look to work space in the final third. Sociedad are keeping their shape, but they are not seeing too much of the ball at this stage.
Juanmi continues to run the line for Sociedad, and the centre-forward has just come close to beating Ter Stegen to a loose ball. Barcelona are now back down the other end with the ball.
Pique has just smashed the ball back to Ter Stegen, conceding a corner in the process. The resulting set piece comes to nothing, however, as the Barcelona stopper collects from Pardo.
The home fans are creating a wonderful atmosphere inside the stadium as the second period gathers pace. Still a lot of football to be played here, but Barcelona are still behind.
BARCELONA SUB! Busquets replaces Rafinha for Barcelona.
Dembele heads down inside the Sociedad box, but the home side clear their lines.
CHANCE! Huge chance for the home side to score a second as Pardo leads a counter before feeding Oyarzabal inside the Barcelona box, but the Spaniard fires over!
SAVE! Ter Stegen has to keep out a strike from Hernandez, who had broken the offside trap. It is all happening at the moment as both teams continue to throw players forward!
SAVE! Oh my word! Another incredible chance for Sociedad on the break! Juanmi is fed by Oyarzabal inside the Barcelona box, but the forward cannot beat Ter Stegen!
GOAL! SOCIEDAD 1-1 BARCELONA (SUAREZ)
Just had to be didn't it. Sociedad have missed a couple of excellent chances, and now Barcelona level. It is a real scramble inside the home side's box following a corner, and Suarez is on hand to smash home from close range. What an incredible period of the game!
GOAL! SOCIEDAD 1-2 BARCELONA (DEMBELE)
Oh my word. Barcelona take the lead in the 66th minute as Dembele's deflected effort finds a route into the back of the net. Sociedad could not clear another corner, and Dembele fires home!
Little over 20 minutes of football remaining. What a second period so far!
Sociedad are struggling to get the ball at the moment as Barcelona look for a third, which would surely put this match to bed. Suarez has just seen an effort move wide of the far post.
SOCIEDAD SUB! Zurutuza is replaced by Jon B.
Possession football from Barcelona, and Vidal will soon enter the field for the away side.
BARCELONA SUB! Vidal replaces Dembele for the away side.
Little over 10 minutes of the second period remaining, and Sociedad are trying to recover, but it seems that the home side do not have too much in their legs. Barcelona are in control here.
CLOSE! Messi's strike from distance just misses the Sociedad goal!
SOCIEDAD SUBS! Merino and Sangalli replace Illarramendi and Pardo.
Super save from Ter Stegen to keep out a close-range Juanmi effort, but the attacker was offside! Even so, Sociedad have missed some incredible chances in this football match.
Coutinho feeds Suarez inside the Sociedad box; the striker goes around Rulli, but takes too long, and ultimately the ball ends up in the arms of the home side's goalkeeper. Still 1-2.
CHANCE! Stunning chance! But Juanmi heads a Merino pass just wide of the post!
YELLOW CARD! Umtiti (Barcelona) is booked for a foul on Jon B.
Time is running out for Sociedad as Barcelona close on a huge three points here.
We are into the first of three additional minutes at the end of the match.
Time is almost up for Sociedad as Barcelona control the possession. The Spanish champions are going to win this match, but my word they have had to ride their luck this afternoon.
FULL TIME: SOCIEDAD 1-2 BARCELONA
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Barcelona running out 2-1 winners over Sociedad at the Anoeta. Thanks for joining Sports Mole for our live coverage once again. See you soon!