preview | 2017-01-25
Match Preview - Spanish Cup Quarterfinals - Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
Barça aims to get to the Spanish Cup semifinals after a vital victory at Anoeta
Barcelona continue their assault towards a third consecutive Copa del Rey on Thursday night when they host Real Sociedad in the second leg of their quarter-final clash. Barça hold a slender 1-0 lead from the first leg at Anoeta and although getting the clubs first win in San Sebastián for almost ten years was a good way to start the tie there is still work to be done if Barça are to progress.
Last weeks game was a rather disappointing contest with both sides tightening up after what had been an excellent game when the sides met in La Liga back in November. On that occasion La Real could consider themselves unlucky to have been held to a 1-1 draw in what was a hugely entertaining match. Last Thursday’s game was a lot more scrappy and Real Sociedad failed to register a shot on target throughout the 90 minutes. Naturally, most Culés would be happy for that to continue this week but as they are behind in the tie it looks like Eusebio Sacristán’s side will come to Camp Nou with a point to prove and they will most likely fancy their chances of turning the tie around considering Barcelona’s current injury problems.
Barcelona have struggled with their midfield all season and Luis Enrique has constantly rotated the team but things seemed to be resolved when Rafinha, Sergio Busquets and Andrés Iniesta played well together for a few games in a row. However, it didn’t last long with Rafinha picking up an injury against Las Palmas, then Iniesta got injured in the first leg of this tie. As if that wasn’t bad enough Busquets joined the duo on the sideline after he was injured in the opening minutes of the 4-0 win over Eibar on Sunday. Lucho now heads into this game without what many consider to be his entire first choice midfield and he will now have to decide who will get the nod for Thursday’s game. Ivan Rakitic played well as the pivot after Busquets was taken off and Arda also played well in the position vacated by Iniesta. Those performances should see those two start but Luis Enrique hasn’t exactly been consistent in his team selections and André Gomes and Denis Suárez will also be considered for a place in the three man midfield.
Real Sociedad aren’t without their own injury problems for this game with Carlos Martinez, Mikel González, Markel Bergara and Imanol Agirretxe all set to miss out for Eusebio’s side. Despite those injuries La Real will still feel confident of getting a result and rightfully so as they have been enjoying an excellent season. They moved level with Atlético Madrid in fourth place at the weekend courtesy of their win over Celta de Vigo while Atleti could only manage a draw in Bilbao against Athletic Club. The last season or two have been disappointing for Real Sociedad but the club looks to be on the up again and they will hold no fear of Barcelona as they look to turn the tie on it’s head.
Barcelona will rightfully be the favourites to win as they are already ahead and hold home advantage but La Real are not a side to be taken lightly as shown in the league meeting earlier this season. They are similar to Barcelona in that they like to have possession of the ball and the game could come down to who wins the midfield which could be a concern for Barça with so many injuries in that area. However, if Lionel Messi can continue the form he displayed in Sunday nights win over Eibar then Luis Enrique’s side should be taking their place in the semi-final draw for the seventh season in a row.
Thursday’s game will be refereed by Juan Martínez Munuera. In his last five games in charge of Barcelona they have won four and drew one. In those games he has booked seven Barça players. In his last five in charge of Real Sociedad they have won one, drew one and lost three. In these games he booked eight La Real players and awarded them one penalty.
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WRITTEN BY: Gerry Johnston
Gerry Johnston is a 31 year old Civil Servant from County Antrim, Ireland. Gerry has been writing about football for various websites since Euro 2012 and he has been a Barcelona fan since the mid 90s.