Barca seek response to Clasico defeat

Reuters , Thursday 7 Apr 2016

FC Barcelona v Atletico Madrid - UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg - The Nou Camp, Barcelona, Spain - 5/4/16 Luis Suarez scores the first goal for Barcelona (Photo: Reuters)

Barcelona must overcome a dismal record at Real Sociedad on Saturday to reinforce the club's title credentials after their 39-game unbeaten run in all competitions ended with defeat by Real Madrid last week.

La Liga leaders Barca were lifted by a 2-1 victory over Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid in a Champions League quarter-final first leg on Tuesday but they have failed to win at Sociedad since the Basque side returned to the top flight in 2011.

Four of the Catalan team's last five visits there have ended in defeat.

"We have beaten Barcelona a lot in the last few years and on Saturday we can beat them again," Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi told reporters.

Barca are without suspended top scorer Luis Suarez, who scored both goals in the comeback win over Atletico, while Aleix Vidal, Jeremy Mathieu and Sandro Ramirez are injured.

Their last victory in San Sebastian came under former coach Frank Rijkaard in May 2007 and neither Pep Guardiola, Gerardo Martino, Tito Vilanova nor Luis Enrique have managed to win at Sociedad.

Barca lost 1-0 there last season after Luis Enrique started the game without Lionel Messi and Brazilian Neymar.

The result had significant consequences as they sacked sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta the next day while media speculation grew that Luis Enrique's job was in danger.

Barca have 76 points, six clear of nearest challengers Atletico and seven ahead of third-placed Real Madrid with seven games remaining.

Sociedad are 10th on 38 points and entertain Barca after a confidence-boosting 2-1 triumph at Sevilla that ended the opposition's run of 14 league victories at home.

Real Madrid host ninth-placed Eibar on Saturday hoping to capitalise on their win at the Nou Camp last week.

Zinedine Zidane's men will also look to put added pressure on the teams above them and bounce back from their shock Champions League defeat at VfL Wolfsburg in midweek.

Real could be without Karim Benzema after the France striker went off in the first half of the 2-0 reverse at Wolfsburg due to a suspected knee injury.

Captain Sergio Ramos is suspended after being sent off for two bookings against Barcelona.

Atletico travel to Espanyol, where they have not won since September 2012, on Saturday knowing that a victory and another slip by Barca would leave them three points off the top.

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