Jordi Alba's Winner Leads Lionel Messi, Barcelona Past Real Sociedad in La Liga

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIApril 20, 2019

Barcelona's Spanish defender Jordi Alba (L) celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on April 20, 2019. (Photo by PAU BARRENA / AFP)        (Photo credit should read PAU BARRENA/AFP/Getty Images)
PAU BARRENA/Getty Images

Barcelona moved nine points clear at the top of La Liga after a 2-1 victory over Real Sociedad at the Camp Nou on Saturday.

Clement Lenglet headed home Ousmane Dembele's corner for his first La Liga goal for the Catalan giants to open the scoring just before half-time.

Juanmi pulled one back for Real Sociedad just after the hour mark, poking past goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen after a great pass from Mikel Merino.

However, Barcelona restored their lead almost immediately. Lionel Messi picked out Jordi Alba on the left, who cut inside and curled home a right-footed shot to seal all three points.


Domestic Dominance Will Give Barca Advantage over Liverpool

Barcelona's victory over Real Sociedad maintained their healthy lead at the top of La Liga and moves the club to within two victories of retaining their title.

Football writer Sid Lowe highlighted how soon they could be crowned champions:

Sid Lowe @sidlowe

Barça are 9 points plus (unassailable) head to head clear of Atlético (16 clear of RM) with five games, 15 points, in play and a midweek fixture to come (away at Alavés). Probably champions by next Saturday, league done ready for ChLg semi final.

The win also extends their superb form in Spain's top flight:

LaLiga @LaLigaEN

Lenglet and @JordiAlba make it 22 games unbeaten for Barça in #LaLigaSantander! 💙❤️ #BarçaRealSociedad 2-1 https://t.co/gR7e9HSm9z

Manager Ernesto Valverde freshened up his team for the visit of Sociedad, bringing Nelson Semedo, Arturo Vidal and Ousmane Dembele into his starting XI.

The changes ensured Sergio Busquets and Philippe Coutinho both started on the bench and only appeared as second-half substitutes, while Sergi Roberto only replaced Vidal in the 90th minute.

Meanwhile, Lenglet's superb first season at Barcelona means that World Cup winner Samuel Umtiti remains on the Barcelona bench after returning from injury:

Ben Hayward @bghayward

Super header from Lenglet, his first goal in La Liga and fully deserved. He has been a brilliant signing for Barcelona. Hardly put a foot wrong. Chapeau.

The team were also able to conserve energy during the game in a controlled performance:

Ben Hayward @bghayward

@aleksantrakis Barcelona have played a huge amount of games this season. I think you conserve energy when you can. Yes, the team is reliant on Messi. Yes, they could play better football. But it has been effective.

Barcelona's domestic dominance means Valverde will have the luxury of resting key players as the season reaches its climax, and he will want to have his players fresh for their UEFA Champions League semi-final against Liverpool.

The club's priority this season is to lift the European Cup for the first time in 2015, and if they can wrap the title up early, they can switch their focus solely to their European campaign.

That should give Barcelona the advantage over Liverpool, who are locked in a tight battle with Manchester City for the Premier League title.

The Reds were knocked off top spot by Manchester City on Saturday, but they can regain first place with victory over Cardiff City on Sunday.

However, they must win all their remaining league games, and hope City drop points, if they are to win their first top-flight title since 1990.

Valverde has often been criticised for his lack of rotation during his time with Barcelona, but he has shown this season he's willing to rest his key players when necessary.

Barcelona's healthy lead in La Liga means Valverde is in an ideal position to manage his stars' minutes over the coming weeks to ensure they are in peak condition for their two crucial games against Liverpool.


What's Next?

Barcelona are back in La Liga action on Tuesday away at Alaves. Real Sociedad play on Thursday against Villarreal.


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