Despite the belief that La Liga is dominated by the power-three at the top of the table, the battle for European football and a top-half finish is one of the fiercest and most competitive anywhere on the continent.
Since the 2011-12 La Liga season, a total of nine Spanish sides have competed in the Champions League and nine clubs have also competed in the Europa League- including the likes of Levante, Real Betis and Celta Vigo.
Basque outfit Real Sociedad have also enjoyed their fair share of European involvement, qualifying for the Europa League once again this season and playing in the Champions League during the 2012-13 season, and Eusebio’s side have raised hope following a superb start to the season.
Real Sociedad have won all three of their La Liga matches so far and the last time they achieved such a feat they won the title, back in 1982, and they’ve shown themselves to be a force to be reckoned with having scored three or more goals in every match so far.
La Real, along with Barcelona, are the only two sides in Spain this season to boast a 100% winning record after three matches and there’s every chance their run can continue, despite a tough test this weekend against Zinedine Zidane’s Real Madrid.
The defending champions travel to the Anoeta Stadium without Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Marcelo though, which hands a boost to the hosts, although it’s worth noting history is against Eusebio’s side – as Real Sociedad have won just one of the last 20 meetings against Los Blancos.
Defeat against Real Madrid would be expected though and wouldn’t bring an end to their blistering start, as Real Sociedad face a run of very winnable matches in the coming weeks; Levante (A), Valencia (H), Real Betis (H), Alaves (A), Espanyol (H) and Getafe (A) between now and November.
Real Sociedad have the opportunity to establish themselves as top-four contenders in the coming months, particularly as Atletico Madrid have to settle into their new stadium, whilst a Europa League spot will stand as the minimum objective.
Eusebio’s men have already shown their ability against sides that may also be eyeing European involvement next season, defeating both Celta Vigo and Villarreal, with Juanmi proving to be a huge part of the side having netted three goals in as many games.
Willian Jose, Asier Illarramendi, Xabi Prieto, Diego Llorente and Mikel Oyarzabel have also chipped in, whilst fans can expect to see more from Adnan Januzaj, Carlos Vela and Sergio Canales in the coming weeks as the action continues.
It’s not just in attack where Real Sociedad shine though as their defensive line also looks impressively strong. Between the sticks Geronimo Rulli stands as one of the most underrated goalkeeper’s within Europe’s top-five leagues, and could push himself into international reckoning this year, whilst captain Inigo Martinez is also an integral figure.
What’s perhaps most exciting for the fans though is the fact that the majority of their star players all have their best years ahead of them and could become key-parts of the Real Sociedad machine, as long as they can fend-off interest from their rivals.
Juanmi, Willian Jose, Llorente, Oyarzabel, Januzaj, Alvaro Oriozola, Aritz Elustondo, Rulli and Kevin Rodrigues are all 25 or under, whilst Martinez, Carlos Vela, Illarramendi and Canales all have plenty of years ahead of them.
Replacing Xabi Prieto will be a stern test, as the experienced midfielder remains influential in the heart of the side, but the signs are very promising for a Real Sociedad side who have the capability of becoming regulars on the European stage.
Regular European action has proved to be decisive in the rise of Sevilla and Atletico Madrid in recent years, both of whom are established as continental powerhouses, and there’s every chance that Real Sociedad could follow suit if they play their cards right.