Barcelona will face Real Sociedad at the dreaded Anoeta
Real Sociedad still cannot claim that the ‘Anoeta curse’ works. Under Ernesto Valverde, Barcelona have won away to Sociedad. But this trip to the Basque Country will be special as it will be the prequel to El Clásico, the ultimate footballing spectacle.
It has been confirmed that Arthur will be out of action. He will be joined by teammates Jordi Alba, Nélson Semedo and Ousmane Dembélé on the treatment table. The matchday squad is also expected to see the return of Gerard Piqué.
Expected Starting XI (4-3-3):
Goalkeeper: Marc-André ter Stegen
Right-back: Sergi Roberto
Centre-back(right): Jean-Clair Todibo
Centre-back(left): Samuel Umtiti
Left-back: Junior Firpo
Central playmaker(right): Carles Aleñá
Holding midfielder: Ivan Rakitić
Central playmaker(left): Arturo Vidal
Right winger: Lionel Messi
Centre-forward: Antoine Griezmann
Left winger: Ansu Fati
Marc-André ter Stegen will return to first-team action after sitting out of the trip to the San Siro in the final Champions League group-stage match-up. Ahead of him, extensive changes are not expected as Gerard Piqué should be rested for the Clásico.
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Clément Lenglet should join him on the bench, to be fully fit for the big match. The defence can line up with Sergi Roberto replacing Moussa Wagué at right-back, and the duo of Jean-Clair Todibo and Samuel Umtiti retaining their spots in the starting lineup.
In the absence of an alternative, Junior Firpo has to start despite his indifferent form. In midfield, Valverde should not change anything from the Inter victory. The trio of Carles Aleñá, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitić were impressive, and should continue.
Frenkie de Jong and Sergio Busquets need to be fully rested for the visit of Real Madrid, and Valverde can choose between Rakitić and Vidal later. Up front, Antoine Griezmann should retain his place in order for Luis Suárez to be rested.
Down the left, Ansu Fati can come in to make his first league start since the 2-1 win over Leganés. He scored the winner against Inter, and should be awarded an opportunity to build on that. And finally, Lionel Messi should come in to replace Carles Pérez.
The Argentine maestro enjoys playing against Real Sociedad, having scored 15 goals and provided 8 assists in 20 appearances against the Basque side. If he can continue his goalscoring form at Anoeta, it can light a spark which can help him perform in El Clásico.