Real Sociedad have the dubious honour of welcoming the mighty Barcelona to San Sebastian on Saturday seeking revenge for a 5-1 mauling at the Nou Camp back in August.
The Catalans go to the Basque region with a commanding nine point lead at the head of La Liga as both Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid trail in their wake.
Sociedad, who currently finds themselves in a respectable ninth place in the standings, have the unenviable task of not only trying to halt Barcelona’s 12 match winning streak in league football, but also to inflict their first domestic defeat of the season.
The hosts’ recent form has seen them hard to beat. They gave Real Madrid a scare when bravely going down 4-3 on January 6, but that is their only reverse since November 4, although they have become draw specialists of late with five in the last eight games.
Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova saw his side let a lead slip in midweek when they were held by Malaga in the Copa del Rey quarter final first leg, and his opposite number, Phillipe Montanier will be hopeful Vilanova’s men will be in a similar generous mood at the Anoeta Stadium.
Thiago Alcantara and Alexis Sanchez have come in for specific criticism since the game with Malaga for sloppy passing and lenient finishing respectively. Vilanova was quick to jump to the defence of the Chilean striker.
The Barcelona boss said on www.fcbarcelona.cat, ``He's a young player that goes all out.”
``If he missed those chances, it's because he worked hard to create them. We can forgive him his missed chances, but we can't forgive him if he doesn't try, and he tries.”
``He's one of us and if we don't help him it will be more difficult for him.''
Montanier’s back line has been in impressive form this season and barring the four goals given up to Real Madrid and the five shipped in Barcelona, they have been miserly. They will have to continue this to have any hope of shackling Lionel Messi and Co.
Barcelona have an almost full squad to choose from, with David Villa being the only likely absentee due to a hamstring problem.
Real Sociedad should also be at full strength and boosted by the return of Inigo Martinez, Mikel Gonzalez and Dani Estrada
Real Sociedad: Bravo, Estrada, Gonzalez, Martinez, De La Bella, Illarramendi, Pardo, Vela, Prieto, Griezmann
Barcelona: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Jordi Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Messi, Iniesta, Pedro
Where To Watch Online: Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad