Real Sociedad enduring its worst slump of the season entering Champions League match against PSG

Mon, Mar 4, 2024
Soccer News (AP)

Real Sociedad enduring its worst slump of the season entering Champions League match against PSG

MADRID (AP) - Real Sociedad will need to overcome its worst slump of the season if it wants to continue its Champions League run.

The Spanish club reached the knockout stage for the first time in two decades, but it can advance on Tuesday only by reversing a 2-0 loss from the first leg at Paris Saint-Germain three weeks ago.

It's a tall task considering Sociedad has won only one of its last nine games in all competitions and has lost five of its last six matches, including at Sevilla 3-2 in the Spanish league on Saturday. It had lost only four times in the entire season before this recent run.

"I will ask the team to show personality, just like in Paris. We made it clear over there that we are capable," Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil said on Monday. "For our part, we will do everything we can to achieve it. I want the best atmosphere, both on and off the pitch. It won't be easy, but we are full of hope. The important thing is to compete and to stay alive."

The Basque Country club started the season strong, staying near the top of La Liga and winning its Champions League group ahead of Inter Milan. It had never finished first in the group stage of the European competition, where it last played in 2013-14.

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"A few months ago no one thought we would be here after winning our group," Alguacil said. "And we played equal to PSG in the first half-hour in Paris, against one of the title favorites."

Sociedad made the last 16 in its Champions League debut in 2003-04, but it hadn't been back in Europe's top club tournament since 2013-14.

Sociedad's best European campaign was in 1982-83, when it reached the semifinals of the European Cup.

Alguacil rested several regulars in the Liga game against Sevilla to try to have a fresher squad against PSG. Among those sidelined were Mikel Merino, Mikel Oyarzabal and Takefusa Kubo. Playmaker Brais Mendez played only a few minutes in the Sevilla loss and scored the team's second goal in stoppage time.

"We will need the best Real to compete against one of the best teams in Europe. It's not just any match," Kubo said. "We have desire and enthusiasm, and anything is possible. The fans believe in us, we are going to fight, and it will be a great evening."

PSG has won 10 of its last 13 matches in all tournaments, but drew its last two in Ligue 1 against Rennes and Monaco.

"Return matches are always difficult. The first leg was a good result but it will be complicated if we don't go out on the pitch with the right attitude and focus," said PSG coach Luis Enrique, a Spaniard who faced Sociedad many times as Barcelona's coach. "I just hope that the team will rise to the occasion as we have done throughout the season. It's a match that must be won."

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TALES AZZONI Azzoni is a sports reporter based in Madrid in charge of Spain and Portugal for The Associated Press. He has covered multiple World Cups and Olympic Games for the AP, as well as other major sporting events worldwide. twitter mailto "
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