Real Sociedad looking to show it can contend at the top

BY AP • September 15, 2017

MADRID (AP) The last time Real Sociedad had such a good start in the Spanish league, it went on to win the title.

Now it wants to keep its impressive run going and show it can repeat its successful campaign from more than three decades ago, when it won the second of its two Spanish titles. The game against defending champion Real Madrid on Sunday gives the Basque club the perfect chance to prove its worth.

''Our first goal is to enjoy every minute as much as possible,'' Real Sociedad coach Eusebio Sacristan said. ''Then we can start being ambitious, and know that we can achieve anything that we want.''

A home victory over Madrid would extend Real Sociedad's perfect record and keep it at the top of the league standings after four matches. Real Sociedad and Barcelona are the only two teams with three straight wins to start the league. Barcelona plays at Getafe on Saturday.

Real Sociedad has succeeded with its possession-based style of play, taking advantage of skillful players in midfield and forwards who have been capitalizing on scoring chances.

Geronimo Rulli has been solid in goal, while Asier Illarramendi has been key at handling the first line of defense in the midfield. Playmaker Xabi Prieto and forwards Willian Jose and Juanmi Jimenez have done well in the attacking side.

Sacristan, a former midfielder who played for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, coached Barcelona's B squad a few years ago and was one of the names rumored to replace Luis Enrique at the Catalan club at the end of last season.

Sacristan had his first full season with Real Sociedad in 2016-17, leading the club to sixth in the league and securing a spot in the Europa League after a two-year absence from European competitions.

''We hope to show that we are a good team and that we have interesting players. We think we can win this (Europa League) title,'' Prieto said. ''I have a lot of faith in this team.''

Real Sociedad had a dominant squad in the late 1970s and 1980s, finishing in the top five in the league for four straight seasons, from 1979-82. It remained in the top 10 every year until 1988-89, finishing second twice. Real Sociedad won the Spanish Super Cup in 1982, and the Copa del Rey in 1986-87.

When it won its second consecutive league title in 1981-82, Real Sociedad started the season with victories over Madrid, Real Betis and Cadiz. This time it won at Celta Vigo, against Villarreal and at Deportivo La Coruna, significant results in difficult venues and against teams expected to do well this season.

Real Sociedad hasn't beaten Madrid in more than three years, losing five in a row. But this time Madrid will bring a depleted squad because of an injury to Karim Benzema and suspensions to Cristiano Ronaldo and Marcelo.


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