Barca faces tricky match against Sociedad

Barcelona last lost a competitive game in April at Real Sociedad and returns to the Estadio Anoeta for the first time on Saturday to face the La Liga survivors in a tricky match.

Sociedad compiled a strong 11-6-2 record at home last season, its first back in La Liga, and used the win over Barcelona to avoid relegation. The club was just two points above the drop at the end of the season.

With 35 of its 45 points won at home last season, Sociedad will again provide a test for Barcelona after handing the three-time defending league champions and European champions their lone road loss domestically last season.

"I'm very impressed with their team," Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola said, "and they have some things that have surprised me.

"They move around in a similar way to us."

Although Barcelona has lost just a handful of matches in La Liga over the last few seasons, it suffered a defeat in Week 2 last season after an international break to Hercules, 2-0.

"It is always a bit hard to get back to things after international matches. We have to prepare well and work very hard," Guardiola said.

It was the second time in three seasons Barca lost in the opening two weeks of the season to a team that went on to be relegated. Numancia stunned Barcelona, 1-0, three years ago. Barca opened this season with a 5-0 win over Villarreal.

"The league as always, you have to be competitive in every game," Guardiola said. "That's the big challenge. That's what���s hardest for us. It clearly gets harder every year."

Barca may welcome back captain Carles Puyol, who has been sidelined since June after undergoing knee surgery. In addition, fullbacks Adriano and Maxwell, and midfielder Ibrahim Afellay are also ready to return from injury.

Sociedad actually opened with a road win at Sporting Gijon and for a team that had just three wins and 10 away points last year, it was a good start as it is prepared for another season which is destined to come down to the wire.

But counting on another three points from Barca down the stretch at the Camp Nou would be a mistake, so three points is a must this weekend if it plans to steal points off the champions.

Real Madrid also opened the season in impressive style, as it rolled to a 6-0 win over Real Zaragoza behind a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick. Real hosts Getafe on Saturday, when Villarreal hosts Sevilla and Valencia hosts Atletico Madrid.

On Sunday, Real Betis hosts Mallorca, Racing hosts Levante, Osasuna hosts Sporting Gijon, Rayo Vallecano hosts Real Zaragoza, Espanyol hosts Athletic Bilbao. On Monday, Malaga hosts Granada.