Real Sociedad, based in the Basque city of Donosti, or San Sebastian, finished 12th in the league last season and enjoyed two good results against Barça, drawing 2-2 in Anoeta and losing just 2-1 in Barcelona
Boss Philippe Montanier has strengthened his squad this summer with the addition José Ángel and the Uruguayan midfielder ‘Chory’ Castro, as well as signing the Mexican Carlos Vela from Arsenal after his successful loan period which included 12 goals for the Basques last season.
These signings, combined with the experience of Bravo, Prieto and Mikel González and the promise of youngsters like Griezmann, Iñigo Martínez or Rubén Pardo have created an optimism amongst the fans as they go into their third season back in the top flight. In attack, Real have a host of good ball playing options – Prieto, Griezmann, Agirretxe, Ifrán, Chory Castro and Vela. They may notice the loss of the veteran Aranbua, but Montanier has brought through a host of young players with the exciting Iñigo Martínez aiming to supply solidity at full back. Behind the defence – possibly Real’s weakest line – is the experienced Claudio Bravo who has spent seven seasons at the club and made the keeper’s gloves his own.
Montanier: “Barça have so much talent”
Montanier was naturally cautious ahead of the game, but claimed: “we are impatient to start the campaign after seven weeks working hard in pre-season. This will be one of the hardest matches of the whole season, but we are perfectly prepared”. The Frenchman showed last season that his team can worry Barça and he explained: “Barcelona will have possession because they have so much talent all over the pitch, but anything is possible over 90 minutes – difficult, but not impossible – we have prepared the game with the intention of coming away with something positive. The key to that is being efficient in attack and defence. If you aren’t, then it is difficult to get a result anywhere, but particularly against Barça who are so strong at home”.
“The best team in the world”
Defender Ansotegi echoed his boss, claiming: “Barça are better than us, but they can always have an off day”, whilst new signing Jose Angel reckons : “it’s a good time to play Barça, because they may be not quite up to their best. We’ll do our best and look for a positive result – they are the best team n the world, but they aren’t unbeatable and Real have top quality players who can cause them problems”.