La Liga Betting: Barcelona v Real Sociedad



Tito Vilanova starts his reign at the Camp Nou with the visit of Real Sociedad. His announcement as successor to Pep Guardiola shocked the world, though when considered in the cold light of day it makes perfect sense. Changing role from assistant to the main man can affect player relationships, but it's down to individual personalities to adjust and respond. His understanding of the philosophy and vision of the club enables a swift transition between the two eras. There's little wrong with this Barça side: a little tweaking and renewed energy will ensure they mount another serious title challenge.

The summer purchase of Arsenal's Carlos Vela and the loan signing of José Ángel from Roma has added quality to La Real. The two youngsters should assist Sociedad to reach a fourth successive season in the top flight. Steady progress has been made by Philippe Montanier, though rumours circulated last season that his job was at risk.

Team news

The return of both Carles Puyol and David Villa for Barça shouldn't be underestimated: these players embody different features of this great side. Puyol's leadership and experience, in particular, are vital to the squad. Match fitness may be an issue, however, so the pair face a race against time to make this one.

The deployment of winger Antoine Griezmann in the centre during pre-season could be significant for the counter-attacking style of Real Sociedad. His summer has been smoother than the last one, when his head was turned by a potential move to Atlético. He scored against Barça last term, and is a reasonable 7.50 to score at anytime.

Form

Six of Spain's starting eleven in the European Championship final originated from La Masia and will be regulars at Barça this season. Providing they have received adequate rest, they should continue the form which saw them win 14 of their last 16 games last term. They have been winning at both half time and full time in 13 of their last 14 home games in the league, and Barça HT/FT can be backed at 1.33.

Sociedad spluttered to a stop last season, with five draws out of eight matches. They did, however, lose just once in that time. Being difficult to beat is a useful commodity for a mid-table side to develop.

Recent head-to-head

Real Sociedad have not won in 11 visits to the Camp Nou, scoring just four goals. They have given Barça a difficult time on numerous occasions, though usually more in the reverse fixture. When the two sides did battle back in February, Barça ran out 2-1 winners.

What the gaffers say

Tito Vilanova: "I know there will be comparisons with Guardiola and I know I will come out of them all a loser."

Goalscorer betting

Whilst Lionel Messi's record-breaking 73 goals in all competitions was nothing short of masterful, the over-reliance on the Argentine made a significant difference when the medals were being handed out. The return of Villa is like a new signing. Whether playing as a number nine or cutting in from the left flank, his movement, extra goal threat and natural finishing ability are a huge boost for the Catalans. He's at 4.10 to return with a fairytale first goal.

Verdict

Whilst no one knows quite what to expect from Vilanova, the general running of the team and destruction of lesser sides should continue as normal. Following on from the club's most successful manager is a challenge of the tallest order, but he won't ultimately be assessed on this type of game. Barça will win, while over 3.5 goals is at 1.83.

Bonus bet

Cesc Fàbregas started last August with a bang, opening his account in La Liga with four goals and four assists in as many games. Back Cesc as your first goalscorer at 5.75.

Score prediction

Barcelona 3-0 Real Sociedad (6.75)