With one team focused on the Champions League this season and the other trying to return to the competition for the first time in 10 years, it’ll certainly be an intriguing La Liga spectacle for the fans in Basque country, as Real Sociedad welcome Real Madrid to San Sebastián tonight.
Los Blancos are no longer a viable competitor in this season’s La Liga title race, with leaders Barcelona currently sitting 11 points afar. As such, their mixed results – a 4-2 defeat at Girona followed by a 4-2 win against Almeria – haven’t surprised many. Carlo Ancelotti’s men’s priority clearly lies in other competitions, including the final of the Copa Del Rey.
But Sociedad are expected to be at their very best, as they look to maintain the gap with fifth-placed Villarreal. Currently, on a three-game unbeaten run, the Txuri-urdin are eight points clear at the fourth spot.
Head to Head
The two sides played out a goalless draw in January. But when zoomed out, Real boasts a very impressive record against Imanol Alguacil’s side, remaining unbeaten in their last six meetings. Sociedad’s last success against the Spanish giants came in May 2019.
Diego Rico, Sadiq Umar, and Martin Merquelanz are all unavailable. But Takefusa Kubo could feature against his former club.
For Real, Ferland Mendy and David Alaba are sidelined with a calf and a thigh injury respectively. Vinicius Junior and Eduardo Camavainga are suspended after being at the receiving end of a yellow card in their last game. The Brazilian’s absence could provide Rodrygo with a rare opportunity to play in his preferred left-flank position. At left-back, versatile Nacho can come in place of Camavinga.
Luka Modric will be another big miss for Carlo Ancelotti, who’s hopeful of his veteran midfielder’s return against Osasuna in the Copa del Rey final on Saturday. The Croatian missed the tie against Almeria with a muscular injury. Even if he’s fit, it’s best to rest him for this game, keeping the domestic final as well as the Champions League semi-finals against Manchester City in mind.
Real Sociedad: 4-3-1-2
Remiro (GK), Gorosabel, Elustond, Normand, Munoz, Mendez, Zubimendi, Silva, Kubo, Oyarzabal, Sorloth
Real Madrid: 4-3-3
Courtois (GK), Nacho, Rudiger, Militao, Carvajal, Kroos, Tchouameni, Modric, Rodrygo, Benzema, Asensio
Players to Watch
With three hat-tricks in April, the Frenchman is the most in-form striker in Europe alongside Erling Haaland. But at the same time, he’s been susceptible to having an off day here and there. As such, Sociedad’s defence will have to wait and see in what mood Benzema is to measure the task at hand on a particular day.
Kubo was one of the stand-out players in the reverse fixture at Santiago Bernabeu and forced a brilliant save from Thibaut Courtois. On the back of another fantastic cameo off the bench in Sociedad’s 2-1 win over Osasuna, the Japanese winger should be able to force his way into the starting lineup and impress yet again against his former club.
Where will the Game be Decided?
With Vinicius and Modric unavailable, Real will be devoid of elite creators on the flank and through the middle. As such, much will depend on Benzema’s individual brilliance. It’ll also be interesting to see how he links up with Rodrygo, who was on the score-sheet against Almeria.
The 22-year-old is no Vinicius but still has the potential to find his teammates through his cut-backs and through balls. He has managed eight assists in La Liga this season. Only Antonie Griezmann, his fellow countryman Vinicius, and Mikel Merino of Sociedad have more. If his partnership with Benzema clicks, then Real should be able to see off the hosts.
Meanwhile, in Modric’s absence, the best creator from the middle of the park will be in White and Blue – David Silva. Aurélien Tchouaméni will have to keep a close eye on the former Manchester City star to effectively shield his backline.
Only Barcelona have won more points on the road than Madrid (31 points in 16 games). Expecting Ancelotti’s side to have another fruitful trip. Real Sociedad 0-1 Real Madrid.
The kickoff is at 20:00 GMT Tuesday at the Anoeta Stadium.