Real Madrid travel to Basque country on Saturday (20:00 CET) to take on Real Sociedad, a once-great rival that has fallen on some hard times. Los blancos are riding one of their best stretches under José Mourinho heading into the match--a series of blisteringly fast, crushing matches against la Liga rivals Málaga (0-4) and Villarreal (0-3)--while la Real recently lost to still-leaders-somehow Levante.
All signs point to this being a comfortable match for Madrid, as la Real aren't in the same universe as that magical team that almost beat out los merengues for the Liga crown in 2002-2003. Since then, the teams have taken markedly different paths, with Madrid collecting superstars and la Real descending into the Liga Adelante (second division).
Now, la Real's primary playmaker mans the helm for their rivals: Xabi Alonso was the captain of that amazing Real Sociedad side, but left shortly after the season to pursue his options in England, with Liverpool. Now, he'll be traveling back to Anoeta as a member of hated Real Madrid, looking to put an arrow through his once-adoring fans' hearts.Tactically, this match really shouldn't present a huge problem for Madrid other than the always-problematic Basque crowd, who will no doubt be numerous and boisterous. Madrid will look to pressure la Real all over the pitch, win balls back high up, and srping lethal, lightning-quick counters, just like they've been doing all season.
In fact, this high-pressure, quick-attach strategy has been Mourinho's go-to tactic all season: ever since he debuted it with great success against Barcelona in the Supercopa, Madrid have continued this pattern. Even during their slump in the early part of October (loss to Levante), Madrid still pressed high up the pitch, and frantically searched for the ball.
Of course, no game is a shoe in. La Real, like all the teams that play Madrid, will be looking to make a statement, and will no doubt come out guns blazing. But this might be just the opening Madrid need, and if the past few matches are any indication, Mourinho's boys will look to capitalize on any forward movements towards the beginning of the match.
While la Real are a dangerous team in general--and Anoeta is a rough stadium to travel to--I don't forsee Madrid having tons of trouble with this match, especially given their form in recent weeks. Of course, I might just be totally jinxing them (or this might be a classic trap game--lower-tier opponent, long week, etc).