(MENAFN- IANS) Madrid, Feb 13 (IANS) Real Sociedad travel to play Paris Saint Germain for the first leg of their last-16 tie in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, plagued by an injury crisis, but with the club's confidence high.
Japanese forward Take Kubo signed a new contract on Monday and the player immediately stated that he didn't want the week's news to be his new deal, but "our win in Paris."
The confidence was also reflected by club president, Jokin Aperribay, who said the team from San Sebastian were not going to Paris to go sightseeing. "I've got a good feeling about this game and the month. We are in the Champions League to try and win it, not for a stroll. We didn't qualify for this season's Champions League thinking about next season. We are thinking about this season," said Aperribay.
However, the Basque outfit will travel to Paris after a 1-0 defeat at home to Osasuna in La Liga last weekend, which highlighted their problems in front of goal, reports Xinhua. The goal drought has coincided with a knee injury that has kept Mikel Oyarzabal out of action and the captain is a major doubt on Wednesday.
However, things were a lot rosy at the end of the Group Stage.
In a Champions League season in which four La Liga teams topped their groups for the first time in history, Real Sociedad demonstrated that Imanol Alguacil's hard work has paid dividends. The Basque side finished top of Group D, leading last year's runners-up Inter Milan on goal difference. Real Sociedad remained unbeaten throughout the group stage, securing three wins and three draws in six duels.
Real Sociedad's return to the Champions League for the first time in a decade coincided with a glamour tie, as Inter visited the Reale Arena. That game got off to an excellent start as Brais Méndez opened the scoring, but Real Sociedad then missed a few chances to put the game to bed and Lautaro Martínez punished them with a late goal in a game that ended in a 1-1 draw.
Despite feeling like they'd dropped two points, La Real bounced back. They travelled to Austria to face RB Salzburg in early October and turned in a convincing performance, with Mikel Oyarzabal and Méndez netting one each as Real Sociedad emerged with a 2-0 win. What followed was two games against Benfica, with Méndez getting his name on the scoresheet again to lead a superior Real Sociedad to a 1-0 win in Portugal before the Txuri-Urdin hosted Benfica in November and grabbed a huge 3-1 victory courtesy of first-half goals from Mikel Merino, Oyarzabal and Ander Barrenetxea.
By this point, Real Sociedad had already booked their ticket to the Round of 16. But they wanted to finish as group winners. La Real outshot RB Salzburg by 21 shots to four at home in the penultimate round of the group stage but lacked a finishing touch, with the game ending in a 0-0 stalemate. Another goalless draw, this time away at Inter, then saw Real Sociedad clinch the top spot in their group for the first time in their history. It was a special moment.
With PSG up ahead in the Round of 16, manager Imanol Alguacil didn't hesitate to say that Real Sociedad's objective is none other than reaching the Champions League final.
“I'll be honest with you,” he noted after the draw was held on December 18.“I found out [about the draw] when we were coming back from training, and I am satisfied and excited because 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.”
Having finished seventh, fifth, sixth and fourth, respectively, in Imanol Alguacil's four full seasons in charge of the team, Real Sociedad have demonstrated that they have made significant progress under the Basque coach over the last few years.
This season, the Txuri-Urdin are one win away from reaching the Copa del Rey final, while they have picked up 37 points from their first 24 games in La Liga and currently sit seventh in the table. Finishing in the top four once more will be difficult, but the primary objective is to clinch European qualification for the fifth season in a row and Imanol Alguacil's presence in the dugout provides fans with the confidence that the team will manage to achieve their goal for yet another campaign.
Coach Alguacil also has defenders Kieren Tierney, Alvaro Odriozola, Aritz Elustondo and Aihen Munoz out for the game, while new signing Sheraldo Becker has a muscle problem and striker Carlos Fernandez will miss most of the season after a knee operation.
Ander Barrenetxea, Brais Mendez and French-born central defender Robin le Normand, all started Saturday's game on the subs' bench and are all expected to start.
Around 2,000 fans will travel from San Sebastian to Paris, with the club asking them to take precautions to avoid problems with the PSG ultras, and setting up a special zone for supporters just three metro stops from the Parque de los Principes.
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