Barcelona settled for a 1-1 draw at Real Sociedad, stumbling before a showdown vs. Real Madrid at Camp Nou.
One week before El Clasico, Real Madrid needed two Cristiano Ronaldo goals and for Sporting Gijon to miss a late penalty to secure a nervy 2-1 win. Barcelona played 24 hours later, and Sunday night faced a tricky trip to bogey side Real Sociedad at the Anoeta, where it has not won for nine years. In showing his respect to the opponent, which has been excellent this campaign, coach Luis Enrique picked an unchanged side for the first time this season.
What followed was a thrilling encounter: Real Sociedad dominated the goalless first half, in which Barcelona keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen made more passes than anyone and Barcelona’s first shot came with 40 minutes on the clock. La Real took the lead in the second half, but after Lionel Messi equalized, the host was undeterred. Carlos Vela twice hit the woodwork and Juanmi had a goal disallowed for offside–when it looked like he was on. The two settled for a 1-1 draw, and Real Sociedad's performance begged the question about its manager's long-term future.
La Real coach Eusebio Sacristan used to play for Barcelona; he is a self-confessed Barcelona fan who replaced Luis Enrique as coach of Barcelona B. Since replacing David Moyes in San Sebastian, he has turned the club around and gotten the best out of players with points to prove, players like Vela, Esteban Granero, Sergio Canales and Asier Illarramendi.
His side pressed with intensity and attacked with intent. Real Sociedad is now up to sixth in La Liga, and for its coach, the prospect of replacing Luis Enrique in the dugout for a second time, at some point down the line, is a real one.
Meanwhile, the current Barcelona boss called his team’s performance "disastrous" and claimed it was "a miracle" that Barcelona escaped with a point. Gerard Pique went even further, accusing teammates of a “worrying attitude” and adding that “it will be hard to win La Liga playing like that.”
It’s likely that Andres Iniesta will return for Barcelona next week, but this is a rare recent Clasico in which Madrid, even without the injured Gareth Bale, might be the slight favorite, even with the game being at Camp Nou.