Match Preview: Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad – 2021/22
Real Madrid’s final test before next Wednesday’s return leg in the Champions League comes in the form of Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad. Should the Merengues win and manage to do so comfortably, it will be the third time in as many weeks that Carlo Ancelotti’s plans have taken shape, despite a good part of the fanbase not being in favour of the Italian manager’s ways at the moment.
Real Sociedad have had a tough start to the year. Their recent 2-0 victory at Mallorca was only their first away win in LaLiga since early November. The elimination from the Europa league at the hands of RB Leipzig was frustrating because it served as the only chance at silverware for the Basques. The two games that have followed however, have seen an increasingly committed, well balanced team.
What to Expect:
For all their fluidity in build up, easy on the eye approach, and rotation policies, Sociedad have underperformed. Alguacil is a man who knows the club inside out, he’s managed the team since 2018 and was part of the youth system since way before that. He’s got the right players, and the system that best suits La Real’s conventional but well drilled team. It means little though, because the results do not paint the same picture.
Sociedad’s goal record in LaLiga has only gone from bad to worse in the past couple of seasons. They’ve scored just 27 times in 26 games (for instance, bottom placed Levante have scored 30) which really isn’t on par with their standards, or the kind of quality they boast in their ranks. That being said, they have proven to be a tough nut to crack when they get early leads, which is precisely what they did against Mallorca and Osasuna.
From set-pieces, the likes of Mikel Merino and centre-back Aritz Elustondo are always solid threats. In possession, Sociedad tend to favour composure, with short passing in tight spaces being the most feasible way to play for a team that has superlative technical quality on show, like the brilliant Mikel Oyarzabal who has been decisive and increasingly influential during his time as captain.
In midfield, they set up with a double pivot of Zubimendi (stays deeper, man marking player) and Merino who prefers playing closer to Silva and Oyarzabal. They play out of the back quite well, do not have the most modern day full-backs or wingers but watching them is never uninteresting.
Alguacil’s team are often vulnerable in defensive transition, which is why one would expect them to push their defensive line further back, or at least not as high as it was against Mallorca and Osasuna. They are conventional but not like most other possession-based teams in the league. They do find ways to penetrate low-blocks, score from set pieces, and put their body on the line when needed.
Alguacil is an astute tactician, who has a resourceful squad at his disposal. He must look for a sense of continuity in this part of the season. Ancelotti too comes off the back of two wins on the trot but he comes into this match with one eye on Wednesday’s game. For all the right reasons, this is going to be an exciting clash for the neutrals.
Sociedad and Real Madrid both have a few big names missing ahead of tonight’s fixture. Sociedad’s problems seem to be with their bench, while two of Real’s first team players will be sidelined tonight. Those being Federico Valverde (illness) and veteran Toni Kroos (injury in training).
Sociedad will miss Adnan Januzaj’s contributions from the bench, Carlos Fernandez and left-back Nacho Monreal will also remain unavailable. January signing Rafinha Alcantara might be available, while Swedish forward Alexander Isak is set to make a return tonight. Not very encouraging sights for Sociedad, they have an incredibly competent team nevertheless.
📋 Squad list for Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad. VAMOS 💪
— Real Madrid News (@onlyrmcfnews) March 4, 2022
Carvajal — Militão — Alaba — Mendy
Modrić — Casemiro — Camavinga
Asensio — Benzema — Vinícius
Zaldüa — Le Normand — Elustondo — Muñoz
Zubimendi — Merino
Portu — Silva — Oyarzabal
Player to Watch:
Real Madrid: Eduardo Camavinga. This is a rehearsal of next week’s game for the French youngster. With Toni Kroos’ fitness in jeopardy, he is likely to start against PSG. Surely he’s got the manager’s trust, and the equation is simple. The task at hand, not so much.
Real Sociedad: Mikel Merino. The Spaniard has undoubtedly been Sociedad’s best player this season alongside Oyarzabal. He operates, on paper — as a holding midfielder who drives into space, plays forward passes and puts the likes of Silva and Isak in favourable positions, but he does a lot more than that.
Merino for one is incredibly well rounded and can put in a shift when required. He’s also scored on 4 occasions this season, and is a threat from corners. His performance against Mallorca was sublime, and an accurate representation of his quality. He would’ve had another goal had it not been for the crossbar. Some player this.
Real Madrid 2-1 Real Sociedad.
The home team know what is at stake here and what will be at stake against the Parisians next week. Make no mistake, Ancelotti will field his best eleven, conservation isn’t his best bet in a game like this. The result will as always be crucial but the performance will give fans a better idea of what is to come.