Barcelona's trip to Real Sociedad on Saturday has been overshadowed by Victor Valdes’s announcement that he will not be signing a new contract with the club.
The 31-year-old has been a stalwart in goal during the most glory-laden period in Barcelona’s history. Valdes’s contract still has nearly 18 months remaining and Barcelona boss Tito Vilanova has been asked about the timing of the revelation.
“He has been direct and sincere,” Vilanova said, according to Barcelona’s official Web site.
“We should appreciate that” Vilanova said. “There is never a good time for a player like Víctor to say that he is leaving the club. I don’t know what the ideal moment would be. But he has shown his face, and hasn’t waited until the last minute and didn’t even start making negotiations.”
After a record-breaking first half of the season, Vilanova is eager for the focus to return to matters on the pitch as they begin the second part of the campaign at the Estadio Anoeta.
“We’ll get down to the job and go out to win the game,” he explained. “There is always news being generated by this club, but what the players have to do is go out and win matches.”
Against a Sociedad side that have lost just once in their last 10 matches in all competitions, Vilanova believes that his side won’t have things all their own way.
“They have always played well against us and this won’t be easy” he said.
Sociedad, whose one defeat in their much improved run came in a dramatic loss to Real Madrid, now sit stand ninth in La Liga. Boss Philippe Montanier will have close to a full strength squad to choose from, with Dani Estrada, Mikel Gonzalez and Inigo Martinez returning after missing the side’s 1-1 draw with Deportivo La Coruna last time out.
Barcelona will again be without David Villa, who continues to struggle with a hamstring problem.
Real Sociedad (probable)
D: Estrada, Gonzalez, I. Martinez, DE La Bella
M: Illarramendi, Pardo
Griezmann, Prieto, Vela
D: Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba
M: Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas
Pedro, Messi, Iniesta
Predictable: Real Sociedad have the joint best defensive record at home this season, having conceded just six goals in 10 matches. At the Camp Nou earlier in the season, though, Barcelona claimed an emphatic 5-1 victory. It may not be quite that resounding this time around, but a full-strength Barcelona should still emerge comfortable victors.
Real Sociedad 1-3 Barcelona
Where to watch: The La Liga contest will kick-off at noon ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport. A live stream, which you view at your own discretion, will be available here.