Real Sociedad v Barcelona: Illarramendi targets surprise

Real Sociedad midfielder Asier Illarramendi is optimistic about his side's chances of beating Barcelona at the weekend.

Asier Illarramendi is confident Real Sociedad have what it takes to spring a surprise in Saturday's La Liga match against Barcelona at Anoeta.

The Basque side were beaten 4-0 at Camp Nou earlier this season, but they have a good record versus the Catalans on home soil.

Sociedad have won four and drawn two of Barca's last six visits to Anoeta in all competitions, and Eusebio's men will be full of confidence after surprising Sevilla 2-1 last week.

Markel Bergara's opener and an own goal from Grzegorz Krychowiak earned the points, ending Sevilla's incredible 17-match winning run in all competitions at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, although Bergara was then sent off midway through the second half and is suspended for Saturday's clash.

"I think we're going into the game in good form and at a good moment," former Real Madrid midfielder Illarramendi told the Sociedad website. "We're feeling strong and full of confidence and excitement, even though it will be another difficult game.

"Barcelona will be coming here to take all three points, especially after slipping up against Real Madrid.

"But we'll be more relaxed after our win last week and we have done well against Barca at home over the past few years. Let's hope this time it turns out well for us again. We are at home and we're fired up for it. We are always extra-motivated when we play against Barca - or any of the big sides.

"We'll be going all out against them, to play how we know, with intensity and determination. They've got players with a lot of quality and players up front who are prolific scorers and that means we have to make sure we commit as few mistakes at the back as possible.

"We know that we can beat them, they haven't beaten us here during the last four years. We have that in mind and if we have done it for four years running, we can do it again on Saturday, or at least draw. We'll be putting all of our strengths into winning the match."

Barca, meanwhile, will be desperate to return to winning ways in La Liga after last week's 2-1 Clasico defeat.

Luis Enrique's men still hold a six-point lead over second-placed Atletico Madrid in the league table, with Real Madrid seven points off the pace in third, but they can ill afford another slip on Saturday.

The champions saw off Atletico 2-1 at home in the Champions League quarter-final first leg in midweek, with Luis Suarez netting twice as Lionel Messi continues to look for his 500th career goal.

The Argentina international has scored 499 at senior level so far, but missed out on the chance to reach the landmark against both Madrid and Atletico.

Messi netted once when both sides met at Camp Nou back in November.


Key Opta facts:

- Real Sociedad have drawn more home games against Barcelona in La Liga than against any other side (23).
- Barcelona have gone 11 league games away from home without a defeat, just one short of their best run with Luis Enrique in charge.
- Real Sociedad have gone three league games without a win at Anoeta, their worst run at home since Eusebio took charge.
- Neymar has won more fouls than any other player in La Liga this season (102).
- Barcelona have not won any of their last two league games. They have not gone three without a win in the competition since May 2014.