Barcelona will notice a change as they head to their ‘bogey ground,’ the Anoeta Stadium, and a match with Real Sociedad this Saturday. A mid-afternoon kick-off gives the Catalans the perfect opportunity to put pressure on Real Madrid who have a tough fixture of their own just down the road at Athletic Club later in the evening.
Barcelona’s La Liga record at the Anoeta in recent years is poor. They won 4-2 there last season, but the Catalans had to come back from 2-0 down to grab their first three points in San Sebastian since 2007. Does that mean the curse is broken or will normal service be resumed?
The Basques have had to wait for their first home game of the season, as work continues to redevelop their ground, and with the athletics track that surrounded the pitch now gone, supporters will be closer than ever before on three of the four sides.
Work will continue throughout the campaign at the north end of the ground, but the three-sided capacity will match the pre-upgrade total of 32,000.
Barca have won all of their games this season and looked solid as an outfit, though they were given an early scare by Huesca before completely dismantling them 8-2. Real Sociedad in contrast have won one, drawn one and lost one, but they’ll relish this match.
In their three league games so far, Sociedad conceded in the first half and late against Eibar, early in the second half and late against Leganes, and early against Villarreal.
Barcelona’s defence have only been breached twice, but both goals came before half-time. The majority of their goals scored have come after the break, albeit they’ve managed a couple in the opening 45 to this point.
The visitors will dictate the pace and rhythm of this game, as they do in almost every match they play, but as they ease themselves into what is always a difficult fixture for them, the Basque side will take advantage.
An issue for Asier Garitano is the staying power of his side, as they’ve run out of steam in the last couple of matches. If anything has characterised Valverde’s Barca, it’s their ability to last the distance and score at any time. No game is over for them until the referee blows his whistle. Settle for a draw? Not a chance.
With their first Champions League fixture coming up after this game, we may see a little rotation from the visitors, especially in light of Luis Suarez’s recent comments, but with all of the big guns available, they’ll play some part even if it’s not from the start.
SugarHouse is offering a reasonable +375 on Draw/Barcelona for a Half Time/Full Time bet, and that’s worth your spend.
During the 2017/18 season, Barcelona only failed to score once under Ernesto Valverde and that came in a surprising 0-0 draw at the Camp Nou against Getafe.
There’s little doubt that the away side will score here, especially now that Ousmane Dembélé is beginning to fire, Philippe Coutinho has completely bedded in and Lionel Messi, who else, is once again atop the Pichichi charts.
Luis Suarez is also finally off of the mark too, and the Uruguayan is in great form as he showed for his country in the most recent international break.
Across the 90 minutes, the table-toppers have far too much attacking firepower to be kept at bay, although they’re often slower out of the blocks at Sociedad, so expect an early goal to give the hosts something to cling onto.
Given their toils at this ground in the past, Barcelona will be more than happy with a win by the odd goal, and SugarHouse are offering a decent price of +700 for a 1-2 away victory.
Willian Jose doesn’t really get the credit that his centre-forward play deserves. A ‘traditional’ No.9, he’s a great outlet for Sociedad, whether that’s via his better than average hold up play, or his eye for goal. He’s been a thorn in Barcelona’s side in the past too, his physical style getting under the skin of the Catalans’ defence.
Both Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti have been exposed this season, aerially and for pace, but fortunately their mistakes have gone unpunished with Barca reigning supreme at the top of the table. No respecter of reputations, Willian Jose will put himself about in his usual manner from the first whistle.
Already this season he’s scored Sociedad’s equaliser against Villarreal and the opener in their loss in the Basque derby to Eibar. At +850 to score first here, SugarHouse are offering a worthwhile punt.