Real Sociedad vs. Barça: Can you hear the drums? They beat for thee


On January 20th each year, the beautiful city of San Sebastián (think of a small Paris by the sea) in the Basque Country celebrates the festival known as La Tamborrada.  It begins in the evening of January 19th and continues for 24 hours.  It’s loud, because the main instrument is the drum.

Drums beaten for 24 hours sounds like my idea of a personal hell.  Add some bagpipes to that and you’d have me whimpering in a pathetic, drooling heap in the corner, crying, “make it stop, make it stop.”  Luckily bagpipes are the Galicians’ and Asturians’ instrument of torture and didn’t make it as far as the Basque Country.  So, only drums it is in El País Vasco.

La Tamborrada is a highly organised event.  Groups of drummers, dressed as chefs and soldiers, march through the streets beating out the rhythms and singing songs that have been composed especially for the event.  The kids even get into the act with their schools organising drumming corps for the children’s marches which happen during the morning of the festival.

How does this fit in football?  Thanks for asking.


Kicking off La Tamborrada
Into the second half of the season, and tonight’s game starts early at 6pm CET.  Before the game, Real Sociedad has organised a demonstration of 2 drumming corps that will march around the athletic track, supplying the warm-up beats for the players and entertaining the crowd.  The drummers will also beat out the Sociedad anthem “Txuri Urdin” (White & Blue) as the players emerge from the tunnel before kick-off.

If we’re not deaf by then, what can we expect?


Anoeta Stadium
Nestled in a little gully overlooked by the city’s Velodrome and Bullring, Real Sociedad’s pretty little 32,000+ capacity stadium also occasionally serves as a rugby pitch for French Club Biarritz Olympique.

Barça’s last 2 visits there have yielded a loss for the Blaugrana (2010/11) and a draw (2011/12) after they were leading 0-2, went to sleep and then let Sociedad catch up.  In fact, Barça hasn’t won away against Sociedad since 2007, but the Basque team did play 3 seasons in the Liga Adelante since then.

Tomorrow’s crowd could be a good one given that it’s the start of La Tamborrada, although it may also be affected by the festival because those who are drumming may have to be elsewhere.  (As for the weather – see below.)


Real Sociedad’s Form – Rather Erratic
This season, Sociedad’s record at home is 5W  2L  3D.  Those 2 losses were 0-1 affairs to Atlético de Madrid and Espanyol.  Their away form has been less successful:  2W  5L  2D for a season’s result of 7W  7L  5D thus far.  They’ve beaten notable in-form teams such as Rayo and Málaga, as well as Sevilla and Valencia.

A couple of weeks ago, they participated in a controversial game away to Real Madrid (where Mourinho selected Adan ahead of Casillas, but the reserve keeper lasted about 10 mins before being red-carded, so Casillas had to play after all), and narrowly missed winning by 4 goals to 3 when, perhaps with a little more pressing, they could have won or at least drawn the match.  (But then our guys didn’t do any better when they allowed a 10-man Málaga to come back to level 2-2 last Wednesday night.)

With 29 points, Real Sociedad sits 9th on the Liga Table – 4 points behind Valencia in 7th and Levante in 8th.


Players to Watch
Coach Phillipe Montanier (his French accent when speaking Castellano is so cute!) has a full squad for selection with no players injured and 3 players (Iñigo Martínez, Dani Estrada and Mikel González) back from serving a 1 match suspension from Yellow card accumulations.  Hmmm… do you think that their last cards (awarded in the Madrid game) were deliberate so that they were not suspended for this match?

The squad is:
GKs: Bravo, Zubikarai.
Defence:  Carlos Martínez, Dani Estrada, Mikel, Iñigo, De la Bella, José Ángel.
Mid-fielders:  Pardo, Illarra, Markel, Elustondo.
Forwards:  Xabi Prieto, Vela, Ifrán, Agirretxe, Chory Castro, Griezmann.

Real Sociedad used to follow the same system as Athletic Bilbao of only using Basque-born players, but the club abandoned that practice in 1989.  The team is now a mix of Basque (who have progressed through the Sociedad youth teams to the Senior level), and International players.

Notable local players are:
~ Captain Xabi Prieto has played at the club since he was 5 years old.  He scored his first hat-trick 2 weeks ago in the 4-3 loss to Real Madrid.  Lying second on the goal-scoring table, his tally stands at 4 for the season, with 3 assists.
~ 21yo CB Iñigo Martínez is gaining a lot of attention from overseas clubs, and it won’t be long before Real Sociedad is presented with an irresistible offer for him.  Although he’s a promising player, Iñigo was part of the disappointing Olympic Team and suffered the ignominy of being sent off (for a last-man tackle) in the first game against Japan.
~ 20yo Mid-fielder Rubén Pardo has 2 goals and 2 assists for his 743 minutes played.  In 2011, he was part of the successful Spanish U-19 team to win the UEFA U-19 Football Championship in Romania.
~ Forward Imanol Agirretxe is a threat in front of goal, especially when linking up with his captain.  The 6’1″ striker is often used as an impact player and has 3 goals and 1 assist.

The squad also has a few Internationals, some of whom are also members of their countries’ National Teams.
~ GK Claudio Bravo is the captain of Chile and has been with Sociedad since 2006.  When he makes a good save, you can shout “Bravo!” and really mean it.
~ 21yo French player Antoine Griezmann is no slug on the left wing.  Our Right defence is going to have to be on their toes to contain this guy, who can also play as a striker.  With 3 goals and 2 assists for Sociedad, Griezmann also plays for the French U-21 team.
~ Uruguayan “Chori” Castro made the move from Mallorca to Sociedad this season.  The winger, still feeling his way into the team, is mainly being used as a sub, but still has 2 goals and 1 assist for his 639 Liga minutes.
~ In August 2012, Mexican Carlos Vela signed permanently to Real Sociedad after being on-loan to the club last season from Arsenal.  Signed by the Gunners in 2005, Vela has spent most seasons out on loan because of UK work permit restrictions for non-EU citizens.  The 23yo Striker leads the goal table with 8 netted and 3 assists.  He has also accumulated 6 cards – the second-highest total in the club for the season. Vela has been a member of the Mexico squad since 2007.


Qatar Strikes Again
For some inexplicable reason, but most likely for healthy monetary compensation, the home team’s camisetas will bear a new sponsor for this game – and this game only.  The name of Qatari firm Al Gosaibi Capital (with a really bad website – don’t click on it if you are at work because the music is loud) will be splayed across the chiseled abs of the Sociedad players.


Weather Forecast
Unfortunately, it’s not great.  Rain, sometimes heavy, is forecast for Saturday and it could also be quite windy.  And cold.  This will not suit our boys.  Shades of the conditions at San Mamés last season, but hopefully the pitch won’t be as water-logged.


Who’s Tito gonna play?
Because of the early game time, the Barça team travelled to San Sebastián on Friday night.

Once again, Jonathan dos Santos was left behind to mop the floors and turn off the lights, and David Villa still has an injured thigh and also didn’t travel.  Abidal, Cuenca and Muniesa, although training again with the main group, have not received medical clearance and won’t be going anywhere until they do.

The squad is:  Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano, Xavi, Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Pedro, Alexis, Messi and Tello.

Alex Song travelled with the group but has already been ruled out with a minor injury that has seen him training in the gym since the Málaga CdR game.

Anyone else think that Tito is going to have selection headaches when the whole squad is back in business?

I anticipate a no-nonsense-let’s-get-the-job-done team although, with the expected weather conditions, he may decide to rest a couple of key players to save them for the return CdR match against Málaga next Thursday.


The game kicks off tonight, Saturday 19th January at 6:00pm CET

Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona

Streams for the match are usually found on First Row, Roja Directa and Bar TV.


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  1. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    What did Ini just do?

  2. January 19, 2013

    Excellent first half from the club. Today is a really good example of the changes in the template that have been added this season to expand the system.

    The transition play is excellent-very fast to prevent defense from resetting teh structure of it’s block.

    The team really takes advantage of when they can play direct. La Real is playing a high back line & Barca are really looking to attack it aggressively. Bad luck with the post – but that shot Messi had where he chipped the keeper on the run was a microcosm of the attack. Wonderful, aggressive, direct ball from Xavi & intelligent run from Messi to attack that high back line.

    Was really hoping we’d score a 3rd to rest players for MAL but it’s a game now. La Real are energized at home.

    Puyol is puyol. Legend. Heart of the team. But I really don’t understant what he was doing with his positioning on that entire goal concession sequence. His mispositioning caused the backline to lose shape. So it goes-even for the best of them. Nature of the game.

    Should be a great 2nd half.

  3. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    RS are launching the ball towards the general vicinity of the Barca box whenever possible. They figure they might just get lucky again.

  4. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Barca are playing like they don’t want to play.

  5. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Oh Pique….

  6. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    And that’s what happens when you get a stupid first yellow card. Daft Piqué.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Pique forgot who the referee was.

  7. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Pique, Pique,, so clumsy sometimes. It’s gonna be a tough week this.

  8. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Pedro for Mascherano?

  9. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Okay what is going on??

  10. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Think that’s a decent shout.

  11. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Yeah Fabs, hang your head low. You should.

    • Jim
      January 19, 2013


    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Yeah, why?

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      If you’ve been in the Love Blob, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that I think that Chop is sadster’s brother. 🙂

  12. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Cesc isn’t very mobile. Think Pedro can cover more ground.

  13. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Wow, they had about 5 chances during that sequence and finally got one.

  14. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Wow, what a finish.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Deflected, though.

  15. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Oy vey – deja vu.

  16. nia
    January 19, 2013

    We didn’t get out of our half yet. They deserve that.

  17. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Benching Iker worked wonders for clean sheets. Bench VV in Malaga, lol 🙂

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      wasn’t his fault. The ball was deflected off its trajectory by Masch.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      That’s a Pinto-always-starts-CDR-games joke, right?

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      hope so!

    • nia
      January 19, 2013

      yes yes, it was a joke. Seriously though, the team needs to start keeping clean sheets. Could cost us in a CL and looks like it will cost us in the copa.

  18. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Is this really about Dani and Jordi both playing? That doesn’t work, does it?

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      You mean like at Malaga?

  19. nia
    January 19, 2013

    We don’t necessarily need to win this but, it’d be good for moral going into the Malaga game.

    • Jafri
      January 19, 2013

      They would be such unnecessary points dropped though…

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      All dropped points are unnecessary.

      If RS get a result, they will have earned it.

  20. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Messi seem to have lost his free kick abilities.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Free kicks aren’t penalties, you know?

  21. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    This is one of the problems with the cavalier style that Euler was talking about earlier where we break at speed. It’s great if it works and it should have tonight but it makes it harder to keep both the ball and your shape IMO.

  22. yana
    January 19, 2013

    Iniesta gives me so much joy.

  23. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Busi acting like a winger!

  24. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Ref’s a little card happy…

  25. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    What’s up with us tonight ? All our players are behaving like bad tempered superstars.

  26. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Barca should know better than trying to pressure Undiano Mallenco. They’re only giving him excuses to break out a yellow card for dissent.

  27. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Teams are working out that if you press Xavi heavily, then he can’t play effectively. Xavi is being shut down tonight.

  28. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Ooofff – ref went for the card there, but both Busi and Ini were on Yellows already. He changed his mind.

  29. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    No subs, Tito?

    Don’t you have a crucial CDR game to think about?

  30. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    What was Alves thinking there?

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013


  31. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Goal for Sociedad. Game over.

  32. nia
    January 19, 2013

    good for them. Barca, no urrgency

  33. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Bloody hell.

  34. mom4
    January 19, 2013

    Well, damn!

  35. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Well done, Sociedad.

  36. Blau-Grenade
    January 19, 2013

    Only thing I want to say is that they wanted it more than Barca.

  37. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Cannot believe that just happened.

  38. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Yeah, well played them. Sickener of a last goal to lose. Masch played him right then went back to his old ways, dashed back and played him on.

  39. Ryan
    January 19, 2013

    Well, the unbeaten streak had to end sometime, but we sure looked tired out there.

  40. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Knew it after the Malaga game, that Barca would have it hard this game. We were horrible. Sociedad were the better team today tbh. Pique didn’t help much with his card but, the team didn’t play well at all after they went 2 up. Hope this will wake them up for the CDR tie. VISCA BARCA!!!

  41. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Masch has been terrible this year. He’s actually making Puyol, who looked done last season, good by comparison.

  42. mom4
    January 19, 2013

    Spent the game yelling “run”, “move toward the ball”, “don’t raise your hand and try to call the game get up and defend”. Yup, they wanted it more. We are gonna be soooooo tired for the cup game.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      That’s why I was hoping for the B squad for this match. It was worth losing a league game in order to be fresh for the cup match.

      But now the team has a loss and no freshness.

  43. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    The mucking around between scoring 2 goals and half-time is costing this team dearly. That’s the second time in a week.

    The impetus to keep scoring suddenly deserts them and they go back to passing the ball around.

    Hope Tito addresses this.

    • Nav
      January 19, 2013

      I don’t understand why Tito waited till the 88th minute to introduce Adriano. Was Alexis and Thiago not on the bench today? They should have been subbed in earlier.

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      Who would they have replaced?

    • Nav
      January 19, 2013

      Pedro should have been replaced earlier by either Alexis or Thiago

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Though, to be fair, RS scored their first goal seconds after what should have been Messi’s 2nd and Barca’s 3rd clanked off the post.

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      Granted – but they still did waste a lot of time.

      With Sociedad pressing so hard, the only option is to press them back. Especially before half-time when if it all goes wrong, they have another 45 mins to recover.

  44. Nav
    January 19, 2013

    Man, end of a pretty crappy week for Barca. Here’s to hoping the team picks it up!

  45. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Same thing happened last year there too. Only difference is, they lost this time. This is how Barca lost the liga last yr. Going ahead and letting other teams come back. I don’t think the team is tired, infact, I think they are too well rested. Anyhow, chin up boys, you’ll get them next time.

    • samarth-culé
      January 19, 2013

      Didn’t seem to be any of those that they were either tired or too rested. Just that Pique got what should have been an avoidable red card just when Barca were starting to get momentum in the 2nd half…

  46. samarth-culé
    January 19, 2013

    -Pique getting the first yellow in a similar way a Malaga player got in the previous game. VERY BAD.
    -Cesc has to make way for Masche and no wonders we are one man down in the midfield. Thus, Messi has to drop deeper so often that it’s like he’s playing AM instead of CF. Xavi drops deeper to start the attacks and also drifts his marker off-position to make space but not much success with that. And, didn’t we lose much of a reference in the CF position then…?
    -And when the crosses are being played, we don’t enough players to take those most of the times!
    -On another note, why are our players mobbing the ref around after the card has been issued? It’s highly unlikely that the ref would rescind the card! Atleast, I have never seen any ref do that before…

    • samarth-culé
      January 19, 2013

      -And on a positive note, let’s hope the loss fires up the boys enough to win the tie at La Rosaleda and not be complacent in the future!

  47. Richzorz
    January 19, 2013

    It happens – Sociedad played well, Pique channelled his inner Kaka and picked up an avoidable red, we hit the post a couple of times, home side got away with a few questionable offside calls, were gifted a classic Mascherano OG, and got lucky with the bounce of the ball for their fullback to get in position to cross for the winner…I guess it’s not such a bad time to drop points – still a healthy lead in La Liga, just don’t make it a habit!!

  48. January 19, 2013

    Well-the team wasn’t going to go undefeated. It’s the first loss of the league season. Overall though-it feels like the team may be going through the dip in form it seems to every winter. Yes-Hlebuary may be here. Hopefully it will be a light, short season.

    Pique-really not sure what to say. What he did was just immature & selfish. Picked up an indulgent first card for no reason. Just cannot do that as a CB particularly in an away match.

    The first goal was simply a mess. Again-love Puyol but that entire sequence was one of those periods where he becomes overly aggressive & plays at too high a tempo. He stepped up inappropriately at the start of the sequence (unclear who he was trying to mark). Then dropped too deep. Then both he & Pique both converged on the ball when it deflected in the air. Just a mess. But during that entire sequence Puyol didn’t actually mark anyone. That’s what forced Alves to support Pique marking the central attacker. That in turn is why the R flank lost balance & an attacker went unmarked.

    But the larger dynamic of this match was about the trade off the team incurs when playing both Cesc & Iniesta together. Both play high up. Cesc’s game is very oriented around vertical runs. That often means he’s in sub-optimal position to support transition defense.

    Now to clarify-I don’t think this is a bad thing in any way. Tactics are about how you manage trade offs. And playing this way has allowed Barca to play they best they have since fall of 2010.

    And more importantly-I’m very supportive of this expansion in the template. It was absolutely needed to diversify the system. Otherwise-it’s simply too easy for the opposition to methodically organize it’s block into a strong shape & structure. The attack had to become higher tempo, more vertical & direct. This is especially true when facing a team playing the kind of high back line la Real were today.

    But nothing’s perfect. The specific problem that we saw today is that the team’s tempo dropped. I had a sinking feeling watching the squad the 2nd half of the match vs MAL. The squad really dropped it’s off the ball movement & tempo. It started feeling like the start of the winter drop off. That continued today.

    So here’s the issue: if you’re going to play Iniesta & Cesc so high together then the team must play with a very high work rate & defend at a high tempo. Some players will have to make up for Cesc & Iniesta being out of position in the transition defense. That’s been key the whole season.

    But today the team played at a lower tempo. So the transition defense lost balance. That was the main issue at hand outside of Pique’s sending off.

    Ironically, today was a game where the team really would’ve benefited a great deal from Sanchez’s work rate & defending. That wouldn’t helped solidify the defense significantly. Alternatively, Tito should’ve changed shape taking off Cesc up 2-1 & using Song or Thiago deeper on the pitch to reestablish balance.

    Unfortunately, now the team is going to be very tired after working so hard headed into a must win match away at MAL. Very difficult situation to be in.

  49. samarth-culé
    January 19, 2013

    Tito not happy with the refs… was also visible during the game.
    “There have been 200 fouls today like the one of Pique’s second yellow card. But it was a clear yellow, don’t have to add more.”
    “I told Pique at half-time to be careful, that his first foul would be a second yellow.”

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Not a coincidence that it takes Undiano Mallenco to make Tito lose his cool.

      Barca’s record in matches with this particular ref is easily its worst compared to any other Liga ref.

    • January 19, 2013

      It doesn’t really matter who the ref was. Pique’s first card was absolutely ridiculous and he has only himself to blame. What on earth did he think he was doing there? Then he makes a tackle like that while already on a yellow? Almost any ref would have been forced to give him a card there.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      No argument with any of that.

      But my point was that Tito — uncharacteristically — did not restrict his criticism to Pique. He clearly took a couple of pointed shots at Undiano Mallenco. He simply couldn’t help himself, I suspect, because he knows full well Barca’s track record with that particular ref.

      The implication of I told Pique at half-time to be careful, that his first foul would be a second yellow is pretty obvious to me.

      I’m not trying to absolve Pique. I’m merely pointing out that Undiano Mallenco’s track record with Barca is enough to make even a cool cat like Tito lose his customary frostiness.

  50. Wind170
    January 19, 2013

    they have to be more alert after scoring 2nd goal,many cases…
    odd subs(2) as well, being too defensive after the red card,
    Simply, Barca DNA is not being defensive-minded . Better subs are available even Fab looks engaged in the ‘screensaver mode’ in 2nd half.
    Odd play from the keeper, too rush sometimes and hoofing the ball forward even when situation is safe and nearby players are available.
    The speed looks frantically fast even after the red card from the back.
    Given defense isn’t the strength,losing possession easily especailly in the middle and the back(pitch) with 10 men is playing fire. Players that can keep the ball better and with higher work rate(not necessarily defensive) may be better.
    Again, the 2nd Sub is absurb and sends the wrong signal to the players which did not play to their strength.This is a tactic more familiar to the ‘SO”s RM instead.Both defensive subs cannot prevent conceding goals. Pretty certain,Ref looks ‘drunk’. But the signal is strange, manager looks scared, defensive subs, plays look franctic and similar, back and forth interactions.

    Not wanting to dwell with the defense, but the keeper looks suspect for the 3rd goal.

    Strange,really strange. Too many set-pieces go through the air…Patience is important especially they don’t send too much men forward even with an extra man. Counter-attack not quite useful then.
    The lead should be attacked, not defended especially under ‘2 goal rule’ circumstance, which is so often seen especially in last season.

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