We are just a day away from what promises to be a really exciting encounter between Real Madrid and Real Sociedad at the Bernabeu. La Real rested several key players (Martin Odegaard, Mikel Oyarzabal, Mikel Merino) in their loss against Leganes, and have a genuine goal of winning the Copa this season.
To help set this up, Dan Parry of The Txoko Pod answered some questions for us. If you haven’t already, make sure to tune into this week’s podcast, where Phil Ball joined us to talk about Odegaard’s season, and the upcoming game.
Kiyan: Hey Dan, it looks like of late, Real Sociedad have gone through a slump. They’ve lose three of their last five La Liga games. How real is this drop in form?
Dan: Kaixo! I’m not sure how much I’d read into that to be honest. With three Copa games sandwiched in between all those league games, their current form isn’t as bad as that statistic might suggest.
The defeat at Leganés was definitely very disappointing, but La Real had won three games on the trot before that and scored eight goals in the process. It’s also worth bearing in mind that Martin Odegaard, Mikel Oyarzabal, Willian José and Mikel Merino didn’t start against Leganés.
Kiyan: Real Sociedad seem to be a ‘big game’ team. They’ve already beaten Atletico and Barca (and thoroughly outplayed the latter), and went toe-to-toe with Real Madrid at the Bernabeu until a deflected goal was scored against them. How much of a chance do they have of winning this Copa tie?
Dan: I was actually quite impressed by Real Sociedad in the Bernabeu fixture, and I felt the scoreline didn’t really reflect how well they played. For the first 30 minutes or so the Real Madrid backline looked very uncomfortable under the high press deployed by Real Sociedad. In the end, Real Madrid’s experience won through and the Valverde goal took the wind out of La Real’s sails.
Obviously, Madrid are heavy favourites, but if La Real can come out with that kind of intensity again and rattle Madrid and perhaps if they get an early goal they could do something special...but there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ in that.
Kiyan: Should Odegaard stay with Sociedad one more year? He certainly seems like he wants to ride it out again. Is it risky for him to come back to Real now, and probably not get as many minutes?
Dan: I guess a lot of it depends on who Madrid sign in the summer. But with Modric signing a contract extension, it’s unlikely Odegaard would get much game time if he went back. I feel it’s better for his development that he stays in Donostia anyway.
He’s very much the central figure in a side that’s playing attractive football and competing for Europe. He’s played so well this season that we often forget it’s his first full campaign in La Liga. So, staying put another year won’t do him or Madrid any harm.
Let’s not forget that Madrid and La Real also have a great relationship when it comes to transfers. I’m sure neither side will want to jeopardize that alliance.
On a personal level, as someone who focuses on Basque football, I’ll be sad to see him leave when the time comes. He’s such a great talent and nearly every week he gives me something to talk about. Like this right here!
Kiyan: Let’s say La Real do lose Odegaard next season. What happens to them? How steep is their drop off?
Dan: Real Sociedad have one of the best canteras in the country and they’re constantly producing new players. It also seems they have a particular transfer strategy in place under Alguacil, which is to buy young raw talent with bags of potential and enthusiasm. So far with the likes of Odegaard and Alexander Isak it’s been successful!
I think if Odegaard left, La Real would have a replacement in mind, whether that be from outside or within. You can already see that they’re bringing through young forward / winger Ander Barrenetxea. I imagine the end goal is that he plays out on the left and Mikel Oyarzabal moves back into a more central position.
If your readers are interested in Basque football or La Real, they could also keep an eye on CD Mirandés, who currently have two young La Real prospects on loan in central-midfielder Jon Guridi and left-winger Martín Merquelanz. Both are impressing this season and could potentially fill any Odegaard-sized hole in the future.
Kiyan: What is your prediction for Thursday? Let us know how you think Aguacil will line up tactically, and how you think the score will play out.
Dan: As I mentioned before, Imanol dropped his stars for the game against Leganés, which says a lot about how important going deep in the Copa is for La Real. Oyarzabal, Merino, Willian José and Odegaard will all line up on Thursday.
Mikel Merino has come out and said that the players are looking forward to the game and are quite convinced that Madrid won’t have been happy to draw them. Expect Real Sociedad to come out full throttle like they did in November. They’ll press high with loads of tenacity, attempt to unsettle the Madrid defence and cause the likes of Ramos into making more mistakes.
I know Real Sociedad fans are quietly confident of causing an upset. I think it all depends on whether Madrid come through an early onslaught like last time. If they weather the storm, they’ll win. My heart wants La Real to win because I want to see both Basque sides in the semis, but my head says Real Madrid to win 2-1.