Sports Mole previews Monday’s La Liga clash between Real Sociedad and Espanyol, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Top-four chasing Real Sociedad will be bidding to record their 14th La Liga victory of the 2021-22 campaign when they welcome Espanyol to Reale Arena on Monday night.
The home side are currently sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Atletico Madrid, while Espanyol occupy 12th, 10 points clear of the relegation zone ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.
Real Sociedad’s bid to finish in the top four this season has been complicated by the recent form of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who are now both chasing down second-placed Sevilla in the table, meaning that it will be difficult for the Basque outfit to claim a Champions League spot for next term.
However, the White and Blues are in the argument for the top four at this stage of the campaign, currently sitting sixth in the table, six points behind fourth-placed Atletico and third-placed Barcelona.
Real Sociedad have finished sixth and fifth in the last two seasons and have not actually claimed fourth since 2012-13, so it would be an excellent achievement to finish in the Champions League positions, but they will need to win a lot of matches over the next few weeks for that to become a possibility.
Imanol Alguacil‘s side played out a goalless draw with Sevilla in their last match before the international break, while they recorded a 1-0 victory over Alaves in their last home fixture on March 13.
Real Sociedad have been strong in front of their own supporters this term, picking up 28 points from 14 matches, and they will be taking on an Espanyol outfit that have won just once on their travels in the league this season.
Having secured a return to La Liga by winning last season’s Segunda Division, consolidating back at this level was always going to be Espanyol’s number one priority during the 2021-22 campaign.
The White and Blues have no relegation fears at this stage, with a successful season to date seeing them collect 36 points from 29 matches to occupy 12th position, some 10 points clear of the relegation zone.
Espanyol are actually only five points behind eighth-placed Athletic Bilbao, meanwhile, and will certainly believe that a top-half finish is achievable, but a tough April will also see them face Atletico and Real Madrid.
Vicente Moreno‘s side have only lost one of their last six in the league, while they have picked up seven points from their last three La Liga fixtures against Getafe, Levante and Mallorca.
The Catalan outfit recorded a 1-0 win over Real Sociedad in the reverse match earlier this season, but they lost 2-1 on their last visit to San Sebastian in July 2020.
Real Sociedad La Liga form:
Real Sociedad form (all competitions):
Espanyol La Liga form:
Real Sociedad will be without the services of Adnan Januzaj on Monday evening through suspension, while Mikel Oyarzabal, Aihen Munoz, Nacho Monreal, Carlos Fernandez and Ander Barrenetxea are out through injury.
Head coach Alguacil will make changes from the side that took to the field against Sevilla before the international break, with Alexander Isak set to return in the final third of the field.
There should also be a recall in the middle of midfield for David Silvawhile Januzaj’s absence in a wide area could mean that Rafinha is pushed into a more advanced position.
As for Espanyol, Javi Puado is back from suspension, and the club have not reported any injuries over the international break, so they could have a full squad for this match.
Diego Lopez was withdrawn at the interval against Mallorca last time out but should be available here, and it could be the same XI that took to the field for their last game.
Raul de Thomas has now scored 14 league goals this season, and the Spain international should be supported by Adri Embarba and Tonny Vilhena in the forward positions.
Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Zaldua, Elustondo, Le Normand, Rico; D Silva, Zubimendi, Merino; Portu, Isak, Rafinha
Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Diego Lopez; Gil, Calero, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Herrera, Bare; Embarba, Darder, Vilhena; De Thomas
We say: Real Sociedad 2-1 Espanyol
This has all of the makings of a very tricky match for Real Sociedad, who need to win to stay in top-four contention. Espanyol will enter the match in impressive form, but we believe that Real Sociedad’s home record this season will be crucial and have backed the Basque side to record a narrow win.