FC Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad: 6 Things Barca Fans Want to See at Camp Nou
Finally, La Liga is back!
Real Madrid will come to the Camp Nou next week for the Spanish Super Cup, 1st Leg.
But we’ll talk about that game soon enough.
For now, let’s focus on another “Real:" Real Sociedad.
FC Barcelona will start their 2012-13 season this Sunday at the Camp Nou as el blaugrana will take on Real Sociedad.
Tito Vilanova will make his regular season debut as manager of the club and will look to emulate the success of his mentor and former boss, Pep Guardiola.
Jordi Alba will also make his first appearance at the Camp Nou wearing a Barcelona kit.
While fans differ on what they want to see out of Lionel Messi, Xavi, and the rest of the club, I decided to write the six things Barça fans want to see out of FC Barcelona against Real Sociedad.
Let me just state the most obvious thing Culés want to see right off the bat: a Barcelona win.
Here are the six things Barça fans want to see at the Camp Nou this Sunday.
David Villa Shows Good (Not Yet Great) Form
David Villa may not start this Sunday against Sociedad, but it’s not important for fans to see el guaje start.
It’s important to see him play well. That’s all.
As we all know, Villa is coming back from his devastating leg injury that he suffered at the FIFA Club World Cup last December. Villa had to miss Euro 2012 due to his rehabilitation.
Now that he has the green light by Barça doctors to play, David will look to get his game legs back this week.
Should we expect to see the David Villa of old against Real Sociedad?
Of course not. I don’t think any logical fan expects Villa to score two goals and have one assist, although it would be nice.
The most important thing for everyone—Barcelona fans, the team, and David Villa himself—that el guaje gets a good 20 minutes of playing time against Real Sociedad to help him get his game legs back.
It’s also important that Xavi, Andres Iniesta, and Lionel Messi search for Villa on the pitch and give him the ball to attack. I believe Villa needs to immediately test himself and see what he and his legs can do in an important game (preseason games don’t really test a player).
And yes, this game is an important game. All Liga games are important.
I don’t expect David Villa to wow us against Sociedad, but I do want to see him going after the ball and attacking. This will help him get back to the David Villa of old sooner rather than later.
A (Relatively) Solid Carles Puyol
But just like with Villa, fans will look to see if Carles is close to 100%.
We shouldn’t expect Carles to be like the Carles of old. Come on now, he did have major knee surgery and had been training separately from the rest of the squad.
Did I mention Carles is 34?
Even though Puyol will not have the same speed or his full strength against Sociedad, we fans will look to see how Carles does to see if he’s very rusty or if his stamina is back on par.
It is possible that Carles Puyol does not start this weekend’s game. If that is the case, Tito Vilanova may bring Carles in for the last 15-20 minutes of the game.
Javier Mascherano or the next player I will mention will probably start if Carles does not.
Marc Bartra Playing
If Carles Puyol is not able to start this Sunday, we may see a back line of Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Javier Mascherano, and Dani Alves.
But I feel the best thing would be to start young Marc Bartra instead of Mascherano.
I’m one of those people that believes that trial by fire is the best way to break in an athlete, regardless of the sport.
Tito Vilanova may want to play it safe and start Javier Mascherano if Puyol is not available. And why not? Javier has played terrific at center-back when call upon since he’s been at Barcelona.
But for me, Marc Bartra needs to get time on the pitch.
Marc had a solid preseason and with Marc Muniesa’s injury, Bartra will be the young CB looking to potentially become Carles Puyol’s successor. With Barcelona not signing a new defender this summer, there is a bit of pressure on Bartra to earn his stripes with the first squad sooner rather than later.
If Marc does not start, Tito needs to get him in the game as a substitute.
If Puyol does not come back healthy, Barcelona is going to depend a lot on Bartra. For the betterment of his game, Marc Bartra needs to get some playing time—at least 15 minutes—on the pitch this weekend.
Trial by fire works best in this case.
What Tito Vilanova's Game Tactics Will Be
Many eyes will be on Tito Vilanova this Sunday as he manages his first Liga game with Barcelona.
The main thing fans will be looking for is if Tito decides to change things up with the “tiki-taka” system of Pep Guardiola.
I don’t see Tito changing much in the ball-control/tiki-taka system that is essentially FC Barcelona.
Let’s be clear: no one expects Tito Vilanova to be just like Pep Guardiola. We all want to see Tito have the same success as Pep, but we shouldn’t expect Tito to say the same things or use the same in-game tactics that Pep made.
But what we Barcelona fans are looking to see, not just this Sunday against Real Sociedad but throughout the 2012-13 season, is that Tito Vilanova be his own manager and not continuously be compared to Pep Guardiola.
Is it natural for us to compare Tito with Pep? Of course.
Is it fair? Not really.
I don’t expect this game against Real Sociedad to be a breakthrough moment where Tito changes things in the tiki-taka system. But I do expect to see some differences as the season progresses.
One thing fans could see change immediately is the focus on the defense—something Pep Guardiola never truly focused on both in transfers and in game-planning. Look for changes in the way defenders are rotated.
Albeit Barcelona were not able to bring in a top defender to the Camp Nou this summer, Tito will bring more emphasis to defending.
And that's what this team needs.
The system (tiki-taka) will be the same. But the in-game tactics and moves will certainly be different.
Jordi Alba Off to a Quick Start
Barcelona’s lone big purchase this summer was bringing Jordi Alba back home to the Camp Nou. Alba cost Barça €14 million, a steal if you ask me. Alba is under contract with Barcelona until 2017 and will take over at left-back for Eric Abidal.
As we all saw, Jordi had a breakout Euro 2012, helping Spain win its second consecutive European championship. Alba also impressed with the way he seemed to have natural on-the-pitch chemistry with Xavi and in particular with Andres Iniesta.
Barça fans can’t wait to see Jordi show off his skills with this team this Sunday as Alba will look to make a statement. Fans will look to see if Alba can continue his chemistry with Xavi and Iniesta.
One thing fans need to look out for as well is how Jordi Alba and Dani Alves work on the back line. With both being such offense-minded players, they will have to know when to come up to play offense. If not, the back line could be exposed with only two defenders (CBs).
And as we all remember, defending the counterattack was Barcelona’s downfall last season.
Let’s all hope Jordi Alba fits in smoothly with this squad and has a terrific first Liga game in an FC Barcelona kit.
Goals!....And Lots of Them.
We Barcelona fans want to see goals against Real Sociedad.
And not just two or three goals. I say a minimum of four goals.
And not all of them from Lionel Messi. If he gets all four goals, great. A hat trick wouldn't surprise me either. But his teammates need to start off right by helping Leo and scoring goals.
The reason I say this is because while Barcelona did scored 114 goals in La Liga last season, 50 of those goals came from Leo Messi.
No one—not even myself—expects Messi to duplicate what he did last season, although it would be nice.
Given many of Barcelona’s forwards were injured at some point last season, including Pedro, Alexis Sanchez, and David Villa, the team is ready to support Messi with the goal scoring once again. For me, it’d be great to see two of the three players just mentioned score goals against Sociedad.
La Liga it ready to go. It's time to challenge Real Madrid and take back the title.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
Don't forget to check out my other columns: