What: Spanish Copa del Rey Semi-final First-leg
Who: Barcelona vs Real Sociedad
When: Wednesday 5th February, 2014, at 21:00 UK Time
Where: Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain

Freak Result

What seemed to be a familiar game on Saturday for the reigning Spanish champions turned sour as they succumbed to their first home league defeat of the season against Valencia, effectively allowing Atletico Madrid to be sole leaders of the chart. Now, they prepare to meet Real Sociedad in two games that they should be able to negotiate without any remarkable difficulty. However, given the way things exploded against Los Che, Barcelona will have to be on their best behaviour in order to avoid other mistakes.

Despite being ahead after what was at first a harmless Alexis Sanchez strike, the Blaugrana quickly lost their way against Valencia. Speaking after the game, Gerardo Martino showed signs of frustration and concern, declaring that his team ought to be more cynical in attack. 

“We had the impression that the match was over after half an hour and we paid for that. I’m concerned and I want to bounce back from this as soon as possible. When you have the chance to finish a game off you do it, you can’t give your rivals a chance”, declared the former Newell’s Old Boys boss. 

Lucky for Barcelona, recent history at the Camp Nou favours them against Real Sociedad, as they have emerged victorious on the past six occasions they played the Basque outfit at their own ground. 

Have to Dream

At this stage of the competition, there are no easy games left, as Real Sociedad will know this first hand as they prepare to travel to the Camp Nou in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final encounter. Having lost all of the past twelve games that pitted them against Barcelona in Catalunya, they have a mountain to climb should they want to book a ticket to the final. With their adversaries suffering a home defeat against Valencia recently, Real Sociedad will want to ensure two successive home losses for the Blaugrana.

Any hopes of defeating Barcelona at their own venue must stem from firm belief, according to defender Mikel Gonzalez, who said that his team must first think it is possible to win in order to pull off the surprise. 

“I think that the four teams that have qualified [to the semi-finals] are here because they deserve it. Now we have a difficult tie against Barcelona, but we have to believe we can qualify. We want to win more, to do something important. Dreaming of the final? Why not? If you don’t dream about something, you will never get it. We know it will be hard, but what if we play our best?” declared the centre-back. 

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Recent form

Barcelona 3-0 Malaga (26/01; La Liga)
Barcelona 5-1 Levante (29/01; Copa del Rey)
Barcelona 2-3 Valencia (01/02; La Liga)

Real Sociedad:
Real Sociedad 4-0 Elche (27/01; La Liga)
Racing Santander 0-0 Real Sociedad (30/01; Copa del Rey)
Atletico Madrid 4-0 Real Sociedad (02/02; La Liga)

Key absences

Barcelona: Ibrahim Afellay; Martin Montoya; Carles Puyol; Neymar; Jonathan dos Santos 

Real Sociedad: Alberto de la Bella; Daniel Estrada; Esteban Granero; Diego Ifran

Players to watch

Barcelona – Lionel Messi: The forward’s strike against Valencia was his first in months in the league. Visibly frustrated against Los Che, Messi has the chance to give Barcelona fans a reason to smile by drubbing Real Sociedad.

Real Sociedad – Antoine Griezmann: The Frenchman has been La Real’s best player this season, and in recent ones as well. One of the most promising young French players and a La Liga star, he will have the chance to expand his stock even more as his team meet Los Cules.

Match Prediction

Barcelona imploded against Valencia at the weekend, and Martino will be hopeful this won’t be the case once again versus the Basque club. Three points off the pace in the league race, Barcelona have their backs against the wall, and a response will be demanded from them in the cup. Expect a 3-1 win for Barcelona after 90 minutes.

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