Scouting Real Madrid's Competition: Real Sociedad

David Ramos

This is yet another dangerous game for Real Madrid. As Álvaro Arbeloa stated in Friday's press conference, the first match after Christmas holidays is never easy. And if you have Griezmann and Carlos Vela coming to town with a Real Sociedad team that remains unbeaten for the last seven games, Real Madrid's bad momentum could once again cost the team a real scare.

Real Sociedad is full of great prospects. It is true that Mexican striker Carlos Vela never lived up to his potential after Arsenal decided make an statement for him. But he forms a really dangerous couple alongside 21-year old Antoine Griezmann.

Philippe Montanier's team didn't have an easy start to the 2012-2013 season, but they are currently ranked seventh and just two points away from Levante. Last seasom, Real Sociedad finished in a comfortable position after spending some weeks in the relegation zone. Now, with Griezmann and Vela's improvements and the signing of Gonzalo Castro, the team is playing even better.

But Real Sociedad's best prospect is arguably midfielder Rubén Pardo. He's only 20 years old, but he seems ready to take his career the same way Xabi Alonso took his own, playing in bigger teams. Montanier is trusting this young player, and that's not benefiting Real's best player in the last couple of seasons, Xabi Prieto. He's currently playing in the right wing, where he doesn't seem comfortable trying to find his space and role within the team. But Prieto still has to quality to make some impact off set pieces with his brilliant crosses, so Real Madrid's defense will have to be ready and step up to the challenge.

The team could certainly miss Asier Illarramendi's presence in the midfield if he finally misses the game (doubtful, at this point). But Real Sociedad's defensive line isn't a bad one. Right back Carlos Martínez is surprising every scouting office in La Liga by taking his play to another level. He's giving Real Sociedad's right wing a lot of depth but he's also stepping up to his defensive duties as the team's right back.

In the middle, Mikel González and Iñigo Martínez will be Real Sociedad's center backs. They haven't conceded many goals, but they aren't very strong neither. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo and left back De la Bella will likely complete the team's starting XI. Montanier likes to play with a 4-2-3-1 formation, but as stated before, Xabi Prieto doesn't really fit well in the right winger position and he tends to help the midfield.

Striker Ifrán likes to press defenders and help his team defensively. He's also a good aerial threat, but his accuracy isn't great, something that doesn't matter when you have Carlos Vela on the starting XI.

Real Sociedad has been playing really well on the road because they like to counter attack, so this match against Real Madrid could fit very well their own style of play.

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