FC Barcelona: How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Real Sociedad

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FC Barcelona: How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Real Sociedad
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

After seeing off rivals Real Sociedad in the Camp Nou last week, Barcelona will travel to San Sebastian on Wednesday for the return leg of the Copa del Rey tie. A place in the final is on the line, and the match promises to be a thriller.

In the first leg, Barcelona beat their Basque opponents to the tune of a 2-0 scoreline, but it was not an easy match by any means.

Though the Catalans created many clear opportunities, they struggled to finish off chances in front of goal. La Real's defense held strong throughout the majority of the match, but Barcelona were able to do just enough to come away winners.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Having lost the match by two goals without scoring a valuable away goal, Real Sociedad will have a long night ahead of them. Qualifying for the final is still possible, but it will be extremely difficult.

Barcelona manager Tata Martino will be all too aware of the threat from La Real and is expected to start his best lineup. So let's take a look at just how La Blaugrana will line up.

 

Defense

Jose Pinto will once again be the man between the sticks for the Catalans. The 38-year-old always starts in Copa del Rey matches, and that will not change this season.

When it comes to the rest of the defense, Martino must opt for his absolute best four players. Barcelona cannot afford to let the deadly forwards of Real Sociedad run rampant and that means solidity at the back.

Expect both Gerard Pique and Marc Bartra to anchor the back line. Both centre-backs started in Barcelona's 4-1 win over Sevilla and formed a formidable pair which shouldn't be changed at this point.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Martino could also look to move Javier Mascherano back into the starting lineup, but with the chemistry that Bartra and Pique share on the pitch, that move just doesn't make much sense.

On either side of the centre-backs, Martino has a full repertoire to choose from. Martin Montoya and Adriano started in Barcelona's last match, but it's unlikely that either will do the same on Wednesday.

Barcelona will need all the speed they can get against Real Sociedad, meaning Dani Alves and Jordi Alba should once again feature for the Catalans. Though they may have the tendency of going forward a bit too much, the full-backs are still the best pair for La Blaugrana.

 

Midfield

Barcelona's midfield will be as important as ever. They will be tasked with keeping the likes of Xabi Prieto and Ruben Pardo at bay, meaning Sergio Busquets has to start.

The Catalan midfielder got time off during the weekend as Alex Song featured from the start. The Cameroonian did not put in that strong of a performance meaning it is relatively fair to assume that Busquets will be taking back over.

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Andres Iniesta should also keep his spot in the starting lineup and could be the key to Barcelona's attacking proficiency. 

Iniesta often blurs the lines of midfielder and forward and normally links up the two areas. When the 29-year-old is not on the field, Barcelona suffers. Expect Iniesta to not only start but also be one of the standouts at Anoeta.

With Xavi having started in the previous match, all signs point to Cesc Fabregas returning to the lineup. The former Arsenal man has been Barcelona's most consistent player this season and is starting to form a rather exciting pair alongside Iniesta.

 

Forwards

Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Lionel Messi will start; that much is certain. The Argentine is really starting to hit his stride in the past few weeks, and there is no chance that he will start the match on the bench.

The real question is who will feature on either side of Messi.

Alexis Sanchez and Pedro have both been in impressive form this season and could easily be Messi's partners. However, Martino has to keep rotations going, and both wingers could use a rest at this point.

Most likely Cristian Tello will return to the lineup playing on the left wing. Tello has begun to show signs of his best form over the past month, and a game of this magnitude could bring out the best in him.

That leaves only one spot left up front which would likely go to Sanchez.

The Chilean has not played a bad game in some time now and fully deserves his starting spot at this point. Though Pedro could also start up front, Sanchez just provides that extra spark which could come in handy against Real Sociedad.

 

Predictions

Who will advance to the Copa del Rey final?

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Real Sociedad are not going to go down without a fight. The Basques are known to be fighters, and they will certainly be looking to give Barcelona everything they've got.

With that being said, the Catalans have too much quality for La Real to be able to turn the tie around.

Barcelona's defense has been shaky recently, meaning Real Sociedad should be able to find the back of the net at least once. But the Blaugrana attack will decide this tie early on.

Messi and Co. already have a 2-0 cushion to work with and have one foot already in the final. It will definitely be a thrilling encounter, but Barcelona are the easy favorites to advance.

Final prediction: Real Sociedad 1-3 Barcelona

 

All statistics are courtesy of WhoScored.com.

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