Sociedad puts winning streak to the test against Barcelona

MADRID (AP) — Real Sociedad will put its nine-game winning streak to the test at a place where it hasn’t succeeded in more than three decades.

Sociedad faces Barcelona in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey on Wednesday at the Camp Nou Stadium. It hasn’t won there since 1991. Sociedad has lost 26 straight away games against Barcelona — with one draw and 29 losses in the last 30 matches at the Catalan club.

But there may be more hope than usual ahead of Sociedad’s trip to Barcelona this time.

The Basque Country side is one of the hottest teams in Spain this season with 21 wins in 28 matches in all competitions, with 13 of those wins coming in away games. It has lost only four times overall.

Sociedad has shown it can do well against big-name opponents on the road, including beating Manchester United at Old Trafford in the Europa League in September. Further back, on its way to the Copa title in 2020, Sociedad beat Real Madrid in a quarterfinal match at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.

“To win at the Camp Nou you need to have a great day,” Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil said. “Yes, we haven’t won there in many years, but we have won nine in a row and we want to get that 10th victory tomorrow.”

Sociedad has been led by in-form forward Alex Sorloth and Robert Navarro, the 20-year-old midfielder who has scored in each of the previous four Copa rounds. Sorloth has scored seven goals in his last nine games in all competitions. Other players who have thrived for Sociedad during its recent run are veteran playmaker David Silva, Japan international Takefusa Kubo and attacking midfielder Brais Méndez.

“They have an incredible team, both defensively and offensively,” Barcelona coach Xavi said Tuesday. “They have been doing some great things.”

Offering Sociedad more hope of winning at the Camp Nou, Barcelona was twice held at home in the Spanish league this season, in its opener against Rayo Vallecano and against Espanyol late last year. It also struggled in a 1-0 win against Getafe on Sunday, when the visitors deserved a better result. In the group stage of the Champions League, Barcelona drew 3-3 at the Camp Nou with Inter Milan and lost 3-0 to Bayern Munich in October.

Barcelona hasn’t lost — anywhere — since that defeat to Bayern, though, with three draws and eight wins, including three consecutive victories. One of those wins came against Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, where Barcelona lifted its first trophy since winning the Copa in 2021, before Lionel Messi left to join Paris Saint-Germain.

Xavi will count on Robert Lewandowski against Sociedad after the Poland striker couldn’t play against Getafe in the league because of a suspension.

Alguacil won’t have Silva available because of a muscle injury sustained in training on Tuesday.

Barcelona eliminated third-division club Ceuta in the round of 16, while Sociedad got past Mallorca.

SEMIFINAL DERBY

In another quarterfinal game, Real Madrid hosts Atlético Madrid on Thursday in the second city derby of the season.

Madrid, which won 2-1 at Atlético in the league last year, is seeking its first Copa title since 2014. Atlético, which won the Copa in 2013 in a final against Madrid, is back in the quarterfinals for the first time since 2017-18.

Madrid, eliminated by Athletic Bilbao in the quarterfinals last season, needed to rally late from two goals down to advance 3-2 past Villarreal in the round of 16, while Atlético got past second-division club Levante 2-0.

In other quarterfinal matches, Osasuna hosts struggling Sevilla on Wednesday and Bilbao visits Valencia, last season’s Copa runner-up, on Thursday.

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Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni

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AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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