So­ciedad hoodoo hangs over Barca

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

MADRID:

Barcelona face an un­com­fort­able trip to bo­gey side Real So­ciedad as they seek to avoid los­ing fur­ther ground on Real Madrid just a week be­fore the two clash in the Cla­sico. Barca have lost on their trav­els to San Se­bas­tian in each of the past three sea­sons and al­ready trail Real by four points hav­ing been held 0-0 at home by nine-man Malaga last week­end. The cham­pi­ons will at least ben­e­fit from hav­ing the on-fire Lionel Messi avail­able.

Messi was badly missed due to ill­ness against Malaga, but took his tally to 18 goals in 15 games this sea­son with a dou­ble in a 2-0 win at Celtic that guar­an­teed Barca’s place in the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League as win­ners of their group on Wed­nes­day. All four of Barca’s slip-ups in La Liga this sea­son have come when Messi hasn’t com­pleted the 90 min­utes. “It is a dif­fi­cult game be­cause of the team they have. They are play­ing very well, they are up in the Euro­pean places and it is years since we won there,” Messi said on Thurs­day.

“It will be a very tough game. We can’t af­ford to play badly be­cause we need to win.” A run of four straight wins, in­clud­ing over Atletico Madrid in their last home out­ing, has seen Real So­ciedad rise to joint fourth in the ta­ble. “To play against Barcelona is al­ways an ex­tra mo­ti­va­tion be­cause there are one of the best in the world and we know what it means to play against them,” said the Basque side’s Mex­i­can for­ward Car­los Vela. Barca will again be with­out the in­jured An­dres Ini­esta and Sa­muel Umtiti, while Ney­mar has to be care­ful as a yel­low card would see the Brazil­ian miss the Cla­sico through sus­pen­sion. Span­ish league ta­ble be­fore this week­end’s matches (played, won, drawn, lost, goals for, goals against, points): Real Madrid 12 9 Barcelona 12 8 Sevilla 12 7 Vil­lar­real 12 6 Real So­ciedad 12 7 Madrid 12 6 Bil­bao 12 6 Eibar 12 5 Celta Vigo 12 5 Las Pal­mas 12 4 Malaga 12 4 Es­panyol 12 3 Real Betis 12 4 Alaves 12 3 Le­ganes 12 4 Va­len­cia 12 3 De­portivo 12 2 Sport­ing Gi­jon 12 2 Osasuna 12 1 Granada 12 0

Life with­out Bale

3 2 3 4 1 3 2 3 2 4 4 6 2 4 1 2 4 3 4 5

Barca could find them­selves seven points back by the time they kick off to­mor­row as Madrid host the strug­gling Sport­ing Gi­jon to­day. Zine­dine Zi­dane’s men ex­tended their un­beaten run in all com­pe­ti­tions to 30 games with vic­tory at 0 2 2 2 4 3 4 4 5 4 4 3 6 5 7 7 6 7 7 7 34 32 22 19 21 25 16 17 18 21 17 14 13 11 11 16 10 11 12 10 10 13 17 8 13 11 13 15 22 20 16 17 22 16 22 22 19 25 23 26 30 26 24 22 22 21 20 18 17 16 16 15 14 13 13 11 10 9 7 5

Sport­ing Lis­bon on Tues­day. How­ever, pro­gres­sion to the last 16 of the Cham­pi­ons League for a record 20th straight sea­son came at a huge cost as Gareth Bale will have to un­dergo surgery on an an­kle in­jury that is set to keep the Welsh­man out for at least two months. —AFP

ITAL­IAN LEAGUE PRE­VIEW

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