This season’s Champions League has been without some big name teams, notably Liverpool. However, it has also seen a campaign shape up that has contained plenty of thrills and excitement.
And, as is often the case, this season has seen the emergence of a smaller club that has sparkled and shone, and shown signs of possibly upsetting the establishment – this club is Real Sociedad.
The Basque side finished 4th last season, returning to Europe’s premiere competition this season, following a 9-year absence.
And they have certainly made their time in the sun count. Leading Group D, they edged out last year’s runners-up Inter Milan on goal difference, remaining unbeaten throughout the group stages with three wins and three draws in six matches.
In fact, this season has marked an historic Champions League campaign in which four La Liga clubs topped their respective groups for the first time ever.
This goes a long way to show the great work the Spanish league has been doing to rebuild its status, not to mention the continued impressive efforts of La Real manager Imanol Alguacil
Sociedad’s return to the competition kicked off with a high-profile encounter against Inter at the Reale Arena. Although Brais Méndez opened the scoring, missed opportunities allowed Inter to level with a late goal, resulting in a 1-1 draw.
Undeterred, La Real rebounded with a convincing 2-0 victory against RB Salzburg in Austria, featuring goals from Mikel Oyarzabal and Méndez. Two encounters with Benfica followed, with Méndez leading Real Sociedad to a 1-0 win in Portugal, which was followed up by a commanding 3-1 victory at home in November.
Their final two group stage games of the campaign both ended as 0-0 draws at home to RB Salzburg, and away to group rivals Inter.
The results left Sociedad and Inter level on 12 points apiece, with the same number of wins, draws, and losses. However, the White and Blues had superior goal difference and fewest goals conceded, which proved to be enough for them to top the group as winners.
Looking ahead to the Round of 16, which was drawn on December 18, 2023, Real Sociedad discovered they would face French giants and Champions League also-rans Paris Saint-Germain.
The first leg is scheduled for February 14th at the Parc des Princes, with the return leg at the Reale Arena on March 5th.
Imanol Alguacil expressed his ambition for Real Sociedad, stating that they still view themselves as a threat in this tournament, and detailing the challenges they face by drawing PSG.
He stated, “I’ll be honest with you, I found out [about the draw] when we were coming back from training, and I am satisfied and excited, because in order to reach the final you have to face the best. When we reached the Copa del Rey final, we had to face Real Madrid on the way. If you want to reach the final, you have to play against the best, and in the Champions League there are a few of them. There are very few bad teams.“.
In La Liga, Real Sociedad, under Alguacil’s leadership, has made significant progress, currently sitting sixth with 32 points from 19 games.
The Basque side has never finished lower than sixth under his stewardship, and they will be hoping to consolidate their status as a European-calibre side by taking a few big scalps before the tournament ends.
This season in La Liga has already produced a few surprises, like Girona coming in 2nd in the table after the end of the first round and Sevilla in the 17th place, struggling against relegation.
As they aim for European qualification for the fifth consecutive season, Alguacil’s presence in the dugout instills confidence among fans, anticipating another successful campaign.