Luis Enrique’s men will be aiming to round off in style a wonderful week which has seen the blaugranes put in two unforgettable displays of attacking football to defeat Real Madrid in the Santiago Bernabéu and AS Roma at Camp Nou. In Saturday’s 4.00pm CET home fixture, Barça take on a Real Sociedad, who have recently appointed former blaugrana Eusebio Sacristán as coach. The blaugranes come into the game four points clear of second placed Atlético Madrid at the top of the table whilst the visitors are in 14th on 12 points.
Luis Enrique’s side trained for the final time on Friday at the Ciutat Esportiva ahead of the game against the club from San Sebastián. Javier Mascherano should get the all clear to be included in the squad after missing the midweek victory over Roma at Camp Nou. The Argentinian was forced off in the first half of the win over Real Madrid in the Bernabéu due to injury but should return on Saturday. Sergi Roberto seems likely to miss out after being diagnosed with a bruised ankle following the 6-1 win in the Champions League alongside longer term injury victims Rafinha and Douglas. Luis Enrique will name his squad on the morning of the game.
Eusebio, in his first ever game against Barça as coach is without former blaugrana Oier Olazábal, strikerJonathas and midfielders Markel Bergara and David Zurutuza due to injury. Furthermore, the influentialAsier Illarramendi, back at the club after an unhappy spell at Real Madrid, is missing due to suspension.
Luis Enrique spoke to the press on Friday in his traditional pre-game press conference at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The Barça boss said that “we hope to keep this run going as long as possible. We have the chance to add three key points to stay leaders and strong at home.” He also pointed out the new style of Saturday’s opponents under their new coach: “With Eusebio, you can see they have a plan to carry out, and they are clear about creating pressure and about which players have to do it and how.”
Winner of two league titles and the European Cup amongst other honours as a Barça player, Eusebio also appeared in front of the media on Friday. The new Real Sociedad coach did not hide his admiration for his former club, saying “their greatness lies in their philosophy.” However, he also warned: “My players have the quality and ambition to surprise Barça.”
Since losing away at Sevilla in the league back at the beginning of October, Luis Enrique’s side have won eight of nine matches in all competitions, only a draw away at Villanovense in the Copa del Rey blotting their copybook, They have scored 16 goals in their last four victories, putting four past Real Madrid away from home and six past AS Roma at Camp Nou in their last two games. The win against Rafa Benítez’s side at the Bernabéu means they are now four points clear of nearest challengers Atlético Madrid.
Real Sociedad’s run of four defeats in five matches prior to the recent international break was the final straw for the club and Scottish coach David Moyes was shown the door. Eusebio’s reign began with a promising 2-0 win at home to Sevilla last weekend to lift the Basques to 14th in the table, still however just two points above the relegation zone. The txuri urdin have won twice away in the league this season, beating Granada 3-0 and Levante 4-0.
FC Barcelona have won 17 straight home league meetings with the side from San Sebastián, who have only ever won three encounters at Camp Nou, the most recent coming in 1991 when two goals from John Aldridge and one from Dalian Atkinson handed la Real a 3-1 win. Last season second half goals fromNeymar and Pedro gave Luis Enrique’s side all three points in a vital encounter at Camp Nou during the title run in. That win avenged a 1-0 defeat earlier in the campaign at Anoeta.
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