AFP – Barcelona must bounce back from their Clasico collapse in a tricky trip to face Real Sociedad today in La Liga.
Despite dominating most of the game the Catalans were sucker-punched by Jude Bellingham’s stunning double strike last weekend to fall four points behind league leaders Real Madrid.
Barcelona are fourth. Real Sociedad, five points behind in fifth will be determined to cut the gap in San Sebastian.
Real Madrid host Rayo Vallecano tomorrow, while second-place Girona visit Osasuna tonight, with Atletico Madrid, third, at Las Palmas.
Barcelona coach Xavi Hernandez’s message to his players after the painful Clasico defeat was that the season is far from over.
“The message is that this is long, it’s the 11th game,” said Xavi.
“We are frustrated, upset, but we have to continue.”
The coach noted that last season, champions Barcelona fell to Madrid at home on their way to the title and said his team were still on the right path.
“Last year we lost too, in La Liga there is an eternity to go. We took a step forward in our play, that is what we wanted,” added Xavi.
The painful loss could spark positive change at Barcelona.
Midfielder Ilkay Gundogan called on his team-mates to show more passion going forwards.
“After such a big game and a result that is so unnecessary, I wish for more frustration, more anger and more disappointment,” the former Manchester City man told LaLiga TV.
“We need to make a huge step in that because otherwise Real Madrid or even Girona are going to run away (from us).”
The Catalans are also starting to welcome back their injured stars who missed the Clasico or only played minor roles.
Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha came off the bench against Madrid but did not influence the game.
Jules Kounde and Pedri could return against Real Sociedad, while Frenkie de Jong is less likely to feature, according to Spanish reports.
There are few more difficult teams Barcelona could have faced than Imanol Alguacil’s Real Sociedad, despite a recent good record at the Reale Arena.
The Basque side have impressed in the Champions League, where they top Group D, and have only suffered two defeats in 11 league matches.
Former Barcelona winger Takefusa Kubo is thriving, while Brais Mendez is one of the division’s in-form players.
Barcelona have not lost away to La Real since 2016, a fine run at a ground where they have historically struggled.
A defeat by David Moyes’ Real Sociedad in January 2015 almost brought the Luis Enrique era crashing to an end, months before the Catalans won the treble.
Following the Clasico disappointment, Barcelona must heed Gundogan’s warning and can ill afford further dropped points in the title race.