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La Liga Preview: Barcelona v Real Sociedad

Barcelona will look to extend their lengthy unbeaten run in La Liga to 18 matches when they host Real Sociedad on Tuesday.

The Catalan giants have started the season with a perfect record after picking up a maximum 15 points from their opening five matches.

They held off a resurgent Sevilla and thumped Rayo Vallecano in their last two Liga fixtures, the latter a resounding 4-0 win.

Atletico Madrid are the only other side who can match that start to the campaign, but a favourable fixture list suggests that Barca’s run could continue for a while.

Having only played on Saturday, coach Gerardo Martino will likely rotate his squad for the Sociedad clash as he has done on previous occasions since joining in the close-season, although Cesc Fabregas admits that has not always gone down well with the squad.

“It looks like he’s doing it with everyone, even the important players,” the former Arsenal midfielder said.

“We don’t like it, those of us who want to play every game, but it’s an intelligent approach and we’ll thank him at the end of the season.”

Sociedad have beaten Barcelona twice in the last two-and-a-half years, but before that you have to go all the way back to 2002 to find their last victory.

Barcelona have scored a total of 12 goals in their last three wins over Real, but the Basque club emerged with the three points in their last meeting in January thanks to a 3-2 scoreline.

Lionel Messi made his 250th La Liga appearance against Rayo but surprisingly failed to find the net as Fabregas and a Pedro hat-trick did the damage.

Martino does not have major injury concerns coming into the match as Ibrahim Afellay (thigh) and Jordi Alba (hamstring) are the only players definitely ruled out.

Meanwhile, Sergio Busquets and Carles Puyol could both return to the team after their respective injuries.

Real Sociedad have started the season in with one win, three draws and a solitary defeat, at the hands of Atletico.

After a poor start to last season they lost only twice in 28 league matches on their way to a fourth-place finish, but they have not won any of their last four games in all competitions.

Malaga and Levante have both held them to 0-0 draws in the league, while Shakhtar Donetsk and Atletico both triumphed at Anoeta.

Jagoba Arrasate will be without Esteban Granero, Diego Ifran (both knee) and Gorka Elustondo (knock), while Alberto De La Bella and Dani Estrada could potentially make returns.

Sun 22 September, 2013
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