One thing is certain for tomorrow night’s Liga game between Barça and Real Sociedad: it is going to be cold! For those of you living further to the north -2ºC might not seem that cold but I can assure you that it is practically unheard of in Barcelona, and that is how low the temperature could go tomorrow night. Pep Guardiola still has only fifteen first team players available and that includes Xavi Hernandez and Alexis Sanchez who are both with niggling injuries. Once more Sergi Roberto, Johnathan dos Santos and Cristian Tello will be included in the first team squad to make up the numbers.
With the gap of seven points we know we have to keep winning to maintain the pressure on Real Madrid. February is often a tricky month as our physical preparation is aimed at having the team at its best in April/May. In previous years we have often suffered more than usual in games we would normally win easily and tomorrow’s game could fall into that category. Real Sociedad are currently 12th in the table with 24 points from 20 games. Under Philippe Montanier are an inconsistent team capable of winning away at Valencia one week and then losing 0-4 at home to Atletico Madrid the next. Last week they were back to good form knocking five past Sporting Gijon, and the fact that they came back from 0-2 down to draw with us in September should be sufficient warning for us not to take our opponents lightly.
There is little room for rotations for Guardiola, Dani Alves should return at right back which should allow Carles Puyol a break though apart from that it is difficult to see more changes from the team that drew 1-1 in Valencia on Wednesday though Adriano could come in if Alexis is not deemed fit enough. I imagine Xavi will be asked if he’s ready to play so we might see him return but I imagine they will try and rest him as much as possible which means he’ll probably be on the bench and only come on if things are not going well. Eric Abidal should be in the team to celebrate the excellent news that he has agreed a new contract to keep him at the club until June 2013.
Our recent form has not been good and Leo Messi has taken his fair share of the blame as he has not been at his best. Last season we met Real in December and we were in excellent form. Hopefully we can see a repeat of the 5-0 scoreline that night and if Messi can score a couple like he scored then, everything will seem back to normal again.
Barça probable squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal, Adriano, Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Xavi, Dos Santos, Thiago, Cesc, Messi, Cuenca, Alexis, Tello.
Possible starting XI: Valdés; Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Abidal; Thiago, Busquets, Fabregas; Cuenca, Messi, Alexis.
My prediction: Barça 3 Real Sociedad 1