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Sunday, 15 December 2019

Barcelona host struggling Sociedad

Barcelona to host Basque side Real Sociedad in sixth round of Spain's La Liga on Tuesday

AFP, Tuesday 24 Sep 2013
FC Barcelona second coach Jordi Roura talks to his team during a training session at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013 (Photo: AP)
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Two of Spain's four Champions League participants go head-to-head for the first time this season when Barcelona host Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou on Tuesday.

The Basques have had an unhappy time since securing qualification to the Champions League for the first time in a decade with an impressive 4-0 aggregate victory over Lyon.

Jagoba Arrasate's men have taken just two points from three league games against Levante, Atletico Madrid and Malaga since and were also beaten at home Shakhtar Donetsk in their Champions League opener.

However, captain Xabi Prieto is confident that despite going to arguably the toughest venue in Spain, they can turn things around quickly.

"We can't always score four goals. Indeed, we have had clean sheets in five of the eight games we have played and this in the long-term in a good thing," he told the club's website.

"We are making chances and if we continue to do so then the goals will arrive.

"After five games we have six points, it is not a crisis situation, but it is obvious that we would like to have more points and we believe we can do more.

"Now we have to concentrate on Barcelona who are a fantastic team and even more so in their own stadium, but we go there believing we can achieve something."

By contrast, Barcelona have started the league season with five straight wins and started to show signs of their best form with consecutive 4-0 victories over Ajax and Rayo Vallecano in the past week.

Gerardo Martino's men could be further boosted by the return of club captain Carles Puyol for the first time this season after he took a full part in training on Sunday.

Sergio Busquets will definitely return after being rested for Saturday's stroll against Rayo, whilst Andres Iniesta and Dani Alves should reclaim their place in the side having started that match on the bench.

Pedro Rodriguez is expected to retain his place in the front three alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar after scoring a hat-trick at the weekend.

Neymar is somewhat surprisingly still looking for his first league goal in Spanish football, but Martino insisted the young Brazilian is not fazed by that stat as he showed by unselfishly squaring for Pedro to complete his hat-trick against Rayo.

"He is very intelligent, he knows how to recognise what is best for the team," he said.

"For Pedro's third goal he could have scored himself but he had the necessary vision to give him the ball."

With Barca playing 24 hours ahead of Real Madrid, the Catalans could be five points ahead of Carlo Ancelotti's men who travel to face Elche on Wednesday.

Gareth Bale is a major doubt for Real having missed out on his home debut in the 4-1 win over Getafe on Sunday after picking up a slight muscular problem in the warm-up.

Sergio Ramos should be fit to take his place in the Real side after being rested at the weekend, whilst Iker Casillas is also expected to take his place on the bench after suffering a bruised rib in the 6-1 thrashing of Galatasaray last week.

Real trail not only Barcelona by two points, but also city rivals Atletico Madrid as they have made a fantastic start to life without Radamel Falcao.

And Los Rojiblancos can ensure they go into Saturday's Madrid derby at the Bernabeu with victory over struggling Osasuna at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday.

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