Real Sociedad vs. Barcelona: Why Not in Anoeta?
According to Spanish newspaper Marca, Periko Alonso believes Real Sociedad could take down Barcelona. The father of former Real Sociedad players Xabi and Mikel stated that Barcelona has to lose at some point, and Saturday may just be the time for it.
Few predictions on Spain's state football betting game, La Quiniela, will have shared Alonso's foresight. Any that did (and that get another 14 spot on) will be on the beach by Tuesday. And there for the rest of their lives: The way to make money on the quiniela is by betting against the grain.
Only the woodwork prevented the game being over in the first half. Leo Messi and Pedro had set the visitor on the path to another apparently easy win with a goal each, and both rattled the posts either side of Claudio Bravo.
From 2-0 down, few teams come back to scrape even a point against this Barcelona. Malaga managed to pull back from a brace down in the cup on Wednesday. Chelsea pegged Barça back from the same scoreline in the Champions League last season. But three points from a two-goal deficit at the 40-minute mark? Catalonia's successful split from Spain seemed more likely at half time.
But Anoeta is not a place that Barcelona enjoys visiting. In its past six league games, the Azulgrana has tasted victory just twice. Last season, Xavi and Cesc had put Barça two up within 10 minutes. Imanol Agirretxe and Antoine Griezmann salvaged a point.
In the 2010-11 season, Thiago chipped Barcelona into the lead in the first half. Toward the end of the second, Xabi Prieto, the "Basque Best," and Ifran netted for a home victory.
Why not in Anoeta? All Periko got wrong was the score. He claimed the final would be 2-1, maybe on the strength of his role in this memorable game.
A curiosity about Barcelona is that unlike other teams, they often don't firm up, so to speak, when down to 10 men. Nacho Monreal's early bath at Camp Nou galvanized Malaga. Gerard Pique's at Anoeta caused disarray.
In an attempt to shore up his back line, Tito Vilanova brought Cesc on and Javier Mascherano on. The Argentinean promptly deflected Chori Castro's shot past Victor Valdes for the equalizer. Mascherano was also guilty of napping when that man Agirretxe popped up at the far post to jab home the decider.
But Barcelona had been guilty of a general complacency that a team like La Real is only too happy to punish. Pique's dismissal was simply a red rag to the Basque bull.
Still, in the greater scheme of things, the result is not really an issue. Nobody in Spain, even Periko, would predict anything other than a Cule stroll to the title. But successive ties, and the fact that Victor Valdes has spent enough time fishing the ball out of the net this season to qualify for a job on the Barcelona fleet when his contract runs down, gives Vilanova something to mull in the second half of the season.
At the other end, Messi continues to shatter Liga records. His strike after six minutes was his 10th consecutive goalscoring game. Only Quique Martin and Ronaldo, in 1996-97, have achieved the same feat, both while at Camp Nou.
The only stadium among current Primera sides Messi has failed to breach is Granada's Los Carmenes. But then he's only had one chance so far his career. Xavi finished the Andalusian side off last season, in a 1-0 win. Granada has a month until Messi comes to town.
By then, the Liga world will have been turned the right way up again.
In the meantime, there is a chink of light for Real and Atletico in the title chase, however small. For Malaga, with home advantage and two away goals in the King's Cup return next week, that glimmer burns just a little bit brighter after Real's sensational victory.
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