La Liga leader, Barcelona, travel to face Real Sociedad on Sunday as they look to extend their lead further in the top of the Primera Division, GOAL reports. The kickoff is scheduled for January 14, 7:45 p.m. GMT.
Barcelona is enjoying one of their best seasons in La Liga so far. With 48 points from their initial 18 games, the Blaugrana are already the winter champions. They stay nine points clear off the second-placed Atletico Madrid and are 16 points above their cross-town rivals Real Madrid having played an extra game. And as if all this weren't enough for them, they've snatched Philippe Coutinho out of Liverpool, and the Brazilian has proved himself time and again that he can be a great asset in the midfield.
Real Sociedad, however, is having a mediocre season. They have been a disappointment considering their league standings from last year. They have collected 23 points from 18 matches and are just eight points clear off the drop zone. The side from Basque has won only one of their last eight games (D2 L5).
On top of that, they have failed to find the back of the net in three of their previous four league games. Real Sociedad lost to a Segunda Division B side Lleida Esportiu in Round 4 of the Cup. They blew a 1-0 away win as Esportiu scored thrice in answer to Real Sociedad's two and won the match on away goals in the second leg.
Barcelona is coming off a stupendous 5-0 victory over Celta in the Copa Del Rey. Valverde rested most of his starters, including talisman Messi in the first leg as Celta Vigo stopped Barcelona to a 1-1 draw. The Spanish coach then chose not to risk and fielded his best squad in the second leg. Thanks to a brace and a beautiful assist from arguably the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, Barcelona registered their place in the quarterfinals of Copa Del Rey where they will meet Espanyol, as per the official website of the club.
Real Sociedad faced a defeat in their last game in the hands of Leganes. Gabriel scored a 76th-minute winner to ensure a 1-0 victory for Leganes.
Messi has scored 14 goals against Real Sociedad in his 19 games, but only four of them have come on the road. For the Basque side, William Jose has been directly involved in three goals in his three appearances against Barcelona in La Liga.
Head-To-HeadThe game ended in a draw the last time these teams came across in Anoeta. Lionel Messi canceled William Jose's 53rd-minute strike with a calm finish from a close range after Neymar had made a great run before setting it up for the Argentine. Real Sociedad is unbeaten in their last seven league games played at home against the Catalans (W5, D2).
Team NewsAs per Fox Sports, Philippe Coutinho was diagnosed with a thigh problem during his medical Barcelona and is expected to join the team by the end of January. Most of the injured players are back in training for the Blaugrana, which include the likes of Rafinha, Turan, Deulofeu, and Alcacer. The most exciting news for the Cules is that the French midfielder Samuel Umtiti is back in training. As the quarter-finals of Copa Del Rey are approaching, Valverde will be glad to have his in-form defender back again. He will most likely go with his usual squad into this one with Messi and Suarez up front.
For Real Sociedad, Janujaz, Alberto De la Bella, and the keeper Rulli are doubtful. Agirretxe and Pardo are back in training, but they will most probably sit out of this match. Inigo Martinez picked up a calf injury in his last game and is set out to miss the match.
Real Sociedad Vs. Barcelona Predicted Lineups
Real Sociedad Probable XI (4-3-3)Rulli (GK)
Rodrigues (LB), Navas (CB), Llorente (CB), Odriozola (RB)
Zurutuza (CM), Illaramendi (CM), Prieto (CM)
Janujaz (LWF), Jose (CF), Oyarzabal (RWF)
Barcelona Probable XI (4-3-3)Ter Stegen (GK)
Roberto (RB), Pique (CB), Vermaelen (CB), Alba (LB)
Iniesta (LM), Rakitic (CM), Busquets (CDM), Dembele (RM)
Suarez (CF), Messi (LF)