Real Sociedad star Asier Illarramendi has reminded Barcelona they have failed to win in their last six visits to the Anoeta Stadium and the Basque side will be extra-motivated to extend the hoodoo on Saturday (9 April). The Spaniard, who move back to San Sebastian from Real Madrid in the summer, will be especially pleased to win in order to dent the La Liga leaders hopes of winning the title – and give a chance to his former side and Atletico Madrid to close the gap with the top of the table.
The Basque side beat Barcelona 1-0 in January 2015 under David Moyes in a defeat which eventually become into a turning point for the Catalans' successful season. The position of manager Luis Enrique came under huge scrutiny after he droped both Lionel Messi and Neymar to the bench amid reports questioning his relationship with several key members of the squad. Yet, the board stuck with the former Roma coach and he eventually managed to turn around the things to win the treble of La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League.
The Catalans arrived to Anoeta this time in a much better situation after they beat Atletico Madrid 2-1 in the Champions League quarter final first leg on Tuesday night. However, there also some doubts over their recent drop of level after Real Madrid ended their 39 unbeaten run in El Clasico last weekend, leaving them still on the top of La Liga table, but just six points ahead of Atletico Madrid and seven away from Los Blancos.
Illarramendi, who last season was at Real Madrid when his current side beat Barcelona at Anoeta, believes that Real Sociedad can put more pressure to Luis Enrique's side on Saturday with another win. Yet, the Spanish midfielder points out that the Catalans have failed to secure the three points in the last six visits to San Sebastian – with four draws and two defeats.
"Barça are focused on the league and they'll be keen to take a result from Anoeta. But in terms of eagerness and determination, I am sure they won't surpass us," Illarramendi said in a press conference. "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."
Real Sociedad, who have improved much since Eusebio took over Moyes in Decemeber, will host the leaders on the back of an impressive victory away at Sevilla. That victory leave them in a comfortable 10th position with 38 points. Illarramendi, nevertheless, has urged his side to get three more against Barcelona in order to virtually confirmed their survival in La Liga and boost their chances to fight for a place in Europe in the seven games remaining.
"I think we're going into it in good form and at a good moment; we're feeling strong and full of confidence and excitement. Even though it will be another difficult game – Barça will be coming here to take all three points, especially after slipping up the other day, but we'll be looser after our win last week and we have done well against Barça at home over the past few years. Let's hope this time it turns out well for us again", he said.
"Every footballer wants to play a game like this, against big teams. Also, we are at home and we're fired up for it. We are always extra-motivated when we play against Barça, or any of the big sides. Like I said before, we'll be going all out against them, to play how we know, with intensity and determination.