The news this week that former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola has chosen Germany as his next port of call was met with positivity across Spain. Not that the Catalans are missing him; Tito Vilanova has put his sides record-breaking start down to the calibre of players and the pre-established football system. "The key is the players are very good," reflected Vilanova modestly. He is, however, on the hunt for a new long-term goalkeeper, as Victor Valdés' agent has made it clear his client will not be signing another contract with the club. His current deal expires in 18 months time, when plenty of suitors will approach the sweeper-keeper.
"They are a machine and the figures speak for themselves. They are verging on perfection, I take my hat off to them," said Real Sociedad's Xabi Prieto to Barça TV ahead of this match. His side has stumbled a little in recent weeks, having previously coasted along nicely.
First choice centre-backs Mikel González and Iñigo Martínez should return for Sociedad having missed last weekend through suspension. Markel Bergara and Liassine Cadamuro-Bentaïba are both unavailable for selection.
David Villa is doubtful once again, in another setback to the forward's ambitions of maintaining a regular starting berth. Victor Valdés, Dani Alves, Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro will all probably come back in, having been rested in the midweek Copa del Rey game.
A draw at the Anoeta to bottom club Deportivo has to be regarded as disappointing for team so comfortable on their own turf. Real Sociedad are undefeated in their last five home matches and have lost only once in the ten previous games in all competitions. A double chance of Real Sociedad to win or draw is 3.25.
Barca's double-header with Màlaga in the past week has seen plenty of goals. Decent opponents the Andalusians may be, but once again this Barça team continues to go from strength to strength, despite conceding a late goal on Wednesday. A minimum of four goals have been scored in their most recent matches, making over 3.5 goals a worthy investment at 2.00.
Barcelona have not won in Sociedad for nearly six years, though the Basque club were not in the top flight for three seasons. A win and a draw in the two most recent meetings suggests a difficult task awaits. Real Sociedad were 2-0 down in this fixture last season, but pulled back two goals to claim a draw.
Although arch rivals Real Madrid are failing to match Barça on the pitch they are still very much in their thoughts off it. "It makes me laugh because I remember that when Madrid won, Mourinho was allowed do anything," said centre-half Piqué this week. "He came here and poked Tito in the eye. How many games was he banned for? Zero. Now that Mourinho is taking on Iker, there is criticism. Mourinho has always been like this, ever since he arrived. He was allowed do anything." Pique is 20.00 for first goal or 7.20 to score at anytime.
Fabio Capello and Neil Lennon have both expressed doubts that Barça's phenomenal approach can be recreated elsewhere. The fashion setters should enter the second half of the season, in much the same vein as they ended the last one. Barcelona are 1.30 for an eleventh straight away win in La Liga.
In the last eight games, when La Real has hit the net, so have the opposition. Likewise, when they have drawn a black they have also kept a clean sheet. They are unlikely to keep Barça's firepower at bay, both teams to score can be found at 1.65.
Score prediction: Real Sociedad 1-4 Barcelona (17.00)