FC Barcelona face a test of nerve as well as football when they play away to Real Sociedad on Sunday night.
Luis Enrique’ s side travel to San Sebastian knowing Real Madrid’ s result at home to Sporting Gijon on Saturday in a game Madrid are odds on to win. Should that happen Real Madrid will have a seven-point lead over Barca when the Catalans’ game kicks off in the Anoeta Stadium.
Anoeta has without doubt been Barcelona’ s jinx stadium in recent years given that they have failed to win there in the last six seasons and not only do they travel to a ground where many of their players have never tasted victory, but they do so against a Real Sociedad side producing its best football for years.
Former Barcelona coach Eusebio Sacristan has built a balanced side, which has so far not suffered any serious injuries or suspensions, meaning he has been able to field virtually the same 11 players week after week.
That has paid off following a slow start to the campaign and last weekend’ s 3-1 thrashing of Sporting Gijon was their fourth straight win and lifted them to fifth in the table. While three of those four wins came against sides battling against relegation, the fourth was a convincing victory over Atletico Madrid.
Spearheaded by an attacking trio of Willian Jose, Carlos Vela and Mikel Oyarzabal, ‘la Real’ will be a stern test for Barca’ s back line, who saw Gerard Pique sit out Friday’ s training session with a slight muscle problem.
Leo Messi returns after showing what Barca were missing in last weekend’ s 0-0 draw at home to Malaga with a brace of goals against Celtic in the Champions League in midweek, while Luis Suarez is also back after suspension.
The game will be a test for Neymar, coming a handful of days after the Spanish State Prosecutor asked for him to receive a two-year prison sentence for fraud involved in his transfer from Santos in 2013. Neymar has received four bookings this season and another would see him suspended for Barca’ s next game: the Classico at home to Real Madrid on December 3rd.