Andres Iniesta will bid farewell to ?Barcelona this Sunday as the curtain drops on the Spaniard’s final La Liga season when Real Sociedad visit Camp Nou.
In what was tipped to be the perfect send-off, the crowning of the invincibles and on the back of the domestic double, the 34-year-old will now bow out on a slightly sombre note after Levante brought a crashing end to Barca’s unbeaten run last weekend.
However, with mid-table Real Sociedad travelling to Catalonia this weekend, Ernesto Valverde’s side will be hoping to see things out on a high, and here is all you need to know ahead of the clash.
A shock 5-4 defeat to Levante saw Barcelona fall at the penultimate hurdle in their bid to become the first season-long unbeaten Spanish side since Real Madrid in 1932 – although Los Blancos’ achievement came in an 18-match campaign.
Before that, Blaugrana had comfortably seen off the likes of Villarreal and Deportivo La Coruna in their last five outings, as well as avoided defeat to Real Madrid and Celta Vigo despite being down to 10 men in both meetings.
Real Sociedad, meanwhile, have endured an indifferent spell over recent weeks – as has been the case for the majority of the campaign – with a 3-0 win over Atletico Madrid certainly an eyebrow raiser but a 2-0 defeat to relegated Malaga one to forget.
The two sides met three times in the space of 12 days this season; with two coming in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals, and Barcelona proved victorious in all.
However, the most eye-catching was the Catalonian’s 4-2 La Liga win five days before their cup first leg when Erreala took a two-goal lead either side of the half-hour mark – highlighting yet again Valverde’s side’s defensive frailties – before Paulinho, a Luis Suarez brace and a stunning late Lionel Messi free-kick secure all three points for this year’s champions.
Andres Iniesta vs Asier Illarramendi
Of course, in his final showdown in the blue and red of Barcelona, Iniesta will be the one to watch as he attempts to leave Camp Nou with one more lasting memory.
Asier Illarramendi is expected to be the one who is tasked with keeping the 34-year-old magician quiet in what will undoubtedly be an evening to remember for the 28-year-old.
Centre back pairing Thomas Vermaelen and Samuel Umtiti are both doubts for Iniesta’s farewell, with the Belgian pulling up with a hamstring injury during last weekend’s defeat to Levante and the Frenchman not featuring since El Clasico.
Sergi Roberto, meanwhile, will serve the final match of his suspension following his sending off against Real Madrid.
For the visitors, Jon Guridi (muscular), Imanol Agirretxe (achilles), Aritz Elustondo (strain) and Igor Zubeldia (muscular) are all doubts, while there is a possibility Adnan Januzaj, who has been suffering from tonsillitis, could make a return.
Barcelona will be desperate to bounce back from their shock defeat, despite running out 3-1 winners over Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa in midweek.
The ‘Valverde out’ campaign has grown stronger as the season has transpired, despite leading Barca to the double, and the 54-year-old has one more chance to win over the Catalonians.
Score Prediction: Barcelona 3-0 Real Sociedad