La Liga leaders Barcelona host Real Sociedad at Camp Nou on Saturday hoping to maintain their red-hot form and move one step closer to La Liga glory.
With the prospect of the treble still burning brightly, Luis Enrique‘s side can move five points clear of second-placed Real Madrid, who play Valencia later that evening.
This time last season Gerardo Martino‘s Barcelona had been eliminated from both the Copa del Rey and the Champions League, and trailing eventual Liga champions Atletico by three points. Fast forward 12 months and Enrique looks to be succeeding where Martino failed.
After thumping Bayern Munich 3-0 in a first-leg semi-final on Wednesday, the Catalans resume domestic duties in the visit of Sociedad this weekend as they look to close in on part one of a second treble since 2009 – and few would bet against a clean sweep.
With 31 points from a possible 33 in tow, and five successive Champions League wins since the competitions entered the knockout stages, the Blaugrana have been almost flawless since a 1-0 home defeat to Malaga in February delivered a shock to the system.
The 2-2 draw at Sevilla last month was the closest that Barcelona have come to losing in a hot streak that has their domestic and continental rivals scratching their head when trying to locate a weakness.
Their star-studded attacking triumvirate of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez has proven just as prolific as the club would have dreamed when adding the latter to the mix back in July, with the trio netting 111 times between them this season.
All three found the net in last week’s 8-0 win at Cordoba and, unfortunately for Real, barnstorming Barcelona look to be growing stronger with each passing game.
Recent form: WWWWWW
Recent form (all competitions): WWWWWW
Jordi Alba‘s own goal after two minutes was enough as the Scottish manager, who took the job in November, secured what has undoubtedly been the high point of his brief tenure thus far.
It has been a trying last 12 months for Moyes, who was fired by Manchester United last April after proving an underwheliming replacement for Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford.
Still, the 52-year-old looks to be enjoying football again and has achieved what he was hired to do: steer La Real to safety.
Sociedad sat second from bottom when Moyes replaced Jagoba Arrasate but, with 13 points separating them and relegation now, it is safe to say that the former United and Everton manager has preserved the club’s top-flight status for another year.
They come into this on the back of a 3-0 win over Levante – his eighth Liga victory as coach – but it was that triumph over Barca that takes pride of place in Moyes’s short stint and Saturday’s hosts will be wary of history repeating itself.
Recent form: LDLDDW
The Frenchman’s absence could pave the way for Thomas Vermaelen to make the squad again as the Belgian awaits his debut following an injury-ravaged first season.
Meanwhile, Moyes confirmed that midfielder Sergio Canales would make the trip to Camp Nou.
Moyes dropped the 24-year-old last week in a decision that he labelled a “private matter”, but the Scot will recall the ex-Real Madrid youth, whose future at the club is in doubt.
Barcelona possible starting lineup:
Bravo; Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Iniesta; Suarez, Neymar, Messi
Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Rulli; Zaldua, Martinez, Gonzalez, Berchiche; Bergara, Pardo, Granero, Prieto; Vela, Finnbogason
Head To Head
Surprisingly, Barcelona have not dominated this meeting in recent years as much as one might have expected. Sociedad have won the last two La Liga meetings, having also earned a 1-1 draw in a Copa del Rey clash in the Anoeta Stadium last season.
Ominously, though, it has been 20 years since Barcelona have failed to beat Sociedad at Camp Nou – 18 home games.