La Liga

Are Real Sociedad Title Challengers?

Real Sociedad are currently, top of the league and while surprise starts can happen, many may expect them to fall away as the season continues, although with Real Madrid and Barcelona maybe not looking as dominant this season, could this be a season where someone outside those two clubs win the league, and could it be Real Sociedad.

A team that are now into their 11th successive and has seen them finish six of those seasons in the top half. They finished fourth in 2012/13, and last season finished in sixth place while also reaching the Copa Del Rey final, which is still to be played against Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao.

Real Sociedad won La Liga in 1980/81 and again in 1981/82, but could be the season they win their third La Liga?

Firstly, the big two seem to be struggling to meet their usual high standards. Real Madrid have had a good start in the league, but they have struggled in the Champions League with a 3-2 loss to Shakhtar Donetsk and a 2-2 draw against Borussia Monchengladbach. They do seem to be in better shape than their rivals Barcelona, and they have sixteen points from their first seven games including a 3-1 victory in the El Clasico but did suffer a surprise 1-0 defeat at home to Cadiz.

Another sign of Real Sociedad’s ability to compete with the best in La Liga, is that Real Madrid only draw came in the league this season came in their first league game against Real Sociedad, which ended in a goalless draw, demonstrating Real Sociedad can be competitive against the best Spanish sides.

Barcelona, poor start to the season domestically will also give hope to other sides in Spain, that the title race may be open for more than two teams this season. Barcelona have eight points from their first six games. They had good wins at the start of the season with a 4-0 opening game win against Villareal and a 3-0 win the following week against Celta Vigo. They have suffered defeats against Sevilla and Real Madrid and though they have two wins from two in the Champions League, they still seem to be far from settled domestically, under the new management of Ronald Koeman, which has also seen a number of new players come in and players such as Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez leave. Also there have had problems off the pitch, with Lionel Messi seemingly keen to leave during the summer due to issues with the President Josep Maria Bartomeu, and the fans wanting the President out, which has seen President Bartomeu resign.

Another potential contender is Atletico Madrid, who could be dangerous this season especially with the quality and experience that Luis Suarez brings to the side. They are on 14 points from six games and have two games in hand over Real Sociedad. They are also the only side in the league yet to lose so far this season, with four wins and two draws. They will want to make the most of the opportunity of the top two not being as dominant. Atletico Madrid also have the experience of manager Diego Simeone who has already won the league as manager with the club in 2014.

Another side, that at the start of the season would have had an outside chance of challenging for the league was Sevilla, although they have not got off the best of starts in the league, and have seven points from six games, including three losses, one draw and two wins, and they will need to significantly improve their domestic form to pose a threat to the title.

Therefore, Real Sociedad look well placed to mount a title challenge. They have scored the most goals so far in the league with 18 goals scored in their eight matches and have conceded only four goals. They have suffered only one loss in the league this season, with a 1-0 away defeat to Valencia. They scored at least three goals in all their La Liga wins, with 3-0 wins over Elche, Getafe and Real Betis, and 4-1 wins over Huesca and Celta Vigo.

They have also had numerous goal scorers, with Mikel Oyarzabal scoring five goals, Portu scoring four and two each from Adnan Januzaj, Willian José and Roberto López, showing they are not reliant on one or two individuals to get their goals.

A problem for Real Sociedad could be the Europa League, with them playing games most Thursday nights. They have won against Rijeka and lost against Napoli, in a competitive group, and the European fixtures could take a toll on their squad and lead to injuries, which could test the strength in depth in the Real Sociedad’s squad.

A positive of Real Sociedad’s side and what could help them mount a title challenge is the blend of experience and youth, and the quality they have in the squad. They have the experience of former Arsenal player Nacho Monreal and Former Man City midfielder David Silva, and in Silva they have a man that has experience of winning leagues. They also have several high-quality younger players with Swedish international Alexander Isak, Mikel Merino and Spanish under 21 international Ander Barrenetxea.

Under the management of Imanol Alguacil, who has spent so much of his playing and coaching career at Real Sociedad, there is potential that this team could carry on their impressive form and challenge for La Liga.

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