Barcelona must bounce back from their Clasico collapse in a tricky trip to face Real Sociedad on Saturday in LaLiga. Despite dominating most of the game the Catalans were sucker-punched by Jude Bellingham’s stunning double strie last weekend to fall four points behind league leaders Real Madrid.
Barcelona are fourth. Real Sociedad, five points behind in fifth will be determined to cut the gap in San Sebastian. Real Madrid host Rayo Vallecano on Sunday, while second-place Girona visit Osasuna Saturday, with Atletico Madrid, third, at Las Palmas on Friday.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez’s message to his players after the painful Clasico defeat was that the season is far from over. The message is that this is long, it’s the 11th game,” said Xavi.
“We are frustrated, upset, but we have to continue.”
The coach noted that last season, champions Barcelona fell to Madrid at home on their way to the title and said his team were still on the right path.
“Last year we lost too, in LaLiga there is an eternity to go. We took a step forward in our play, that is what we wanted,” added Xavi.
The painful loss could spark positive change at Barcelona.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan called on his teammates to show more passion going forwards.
“After such a big game and a result that is so unnecessary, I wish for more frustration, more anger and more disappointment,” the former Manchester City man told LaLiga TV.
“We need to make a huge step in that because otherwise Real Madrid or even Girona are going to run away (from us).”
The Catalans are also starting to welcome back their injured stars who missed the Clasico or only played minor roles.
Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha came off the bench against Madrid but did not influence the game.
Jules Kounde and Pedri could return against Real Sociedad, while Frenkie de Jong is less likely to feature, according to Spanish reports.
There are few more difficult teams Barcelona could have faced than Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad, despite a recent good record at the Reale Arena.
The Basque side have impressed in the Champions League, where they top Group D, and have only suffered two defeats in 11 league matches.
Former Barcelona winger Takefusa Kubo is thriving, while Brais Mendez is one of the division’s in-form players.
Barcelona have not lost away to La Real since 2016, a fine run at a ground where they have historically struggled.
A defeat by David Moyes’ Real Sociedad in January 2015 almost brought the Luis Enrique era crashing to an end, months before the Catalans won the treble.
Following the Clasico disappointment, Barcelona must heed Gundogan’s warning and can ill afford further dropped points in the title race.
PLAYER TO WATCH: ISCO (REAL BETIS)
Former Real Madrid playmaker Isco has found his footing at Betis and is delivering decisive performances on a regular basis. The midfielder, 31, is in excellent shape and a joy to watch and he will be hoping to shine again when Real Mallorca visit on Saturday, as Betis continue to fight for European football next season.
5 – Villarreal have not won in five LaLiga games for the first time since March 2021
29 – Celta Vigo’s Iago Aspas has had more shots without scoring than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues
450 – Atletico Madrid’s Diego Simeone, an Argentine, is closing in on the most games coached by a foreigner in Spain. He is 38 matches short of Slovak Ferdinand Daucik’s record of 488 set with a slew of clubs between 1950 and 1971
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