On paper, this has all the makings of a tough matchup for Real Madrid. Real Sociedad has a number of talented players, several veterans who have experience against elite teams and a pretty good home field advantage. In reality though, this Sociedad side is one that is in utter shambles.
Real Sociedad knew that Antoine Griezmann was off to a bigger club this summer and bought out Carlos Vela's contract, but now Vela is hurt. They knew Claudio "Butterfingers" Bravo was going to leave so they bought highly-rated Geronimo Rulli, but he just fractured his fifth metatarsal and will be out for an extended period. They brought in Alfred Finnbogason (who I rate pretty highly) to compete with the average Imanol Agirretxe, but now Finnbogason is apparently hurt as well. They lost 1-0 to newly promoted Eibar in their opening league game and crashed out of the Europa League qualifying match against Krasnodar when they conceded three goals in the last 20 minutes. Plain and simple, this seems to be a snakebitten and weakened team.
So who does Real Madrid need to watch out for? Well, Vela is injured but he did manage to play 30 minutes against Eibar so he might make an appearance to try and fill the void left by Griezmann. Xabi Prieto has eight goals against Madrid in his career, including a hat trick at the Bernabeu in the 2012-2013 season, while players like Iñigo Martinez and Ruben Pardo have both been linked to Madrid at various points in their young careers. La Real lined up in a 4-1-4-1 in both the Eibar and Krasnodar games but have the potential to mix it up in order to break their current slump.
For Real Madrid, expect a fairly strong lineup as this is the first road game of the season and visiting Sociedad can prove to be a tricky challenge. Fabio Coentrao won't be back so a back four of Marcelo, Pepe, Ramos and Carvajal is to be expected. Carlo will likely opt to stick with the 4-3-3 which will surely include Luka Modric and Toni Kroos with Isco likely being the other member of the midfield three. Cristiano Ronaldo will sit this one out so expect James Rodriguez to fill in for him on the left, with Karim Benzema up top and Gareth Bale on the right.
Given Real Sociedad's injuries and shockingly poor form so far this season, it's hard not to see Real Madrid winning by a couple of goals. However, games at the Anoeta can prove to be a feisty affair no matter how weakened the home side is so I wouldn't be surprised if this turns into a nail-biter.
Prediction: 2-0 in favor of Real Madrid. A tough game for the visitors but I just can't see the hosts having the offense or decent enough goalkeeping to pull off an upset.
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Bonus: This is what happened the last time Gareth Bale faced Real Sociedad.
Yeah. That was awesome.
Elsewhere, Atletico Madrid will look to rebound from their abysmal opener and host Eibar while Barcelona will look to build on their strong start by visiting an impressive Villarreal side.