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Preview: Espanyol vs. Real Sociedad - prediction, team news, lineups

:Headline: Preview: Espanyol vs. Real Sociedad - prediction, team news, lineups:
Sports Mole previews Sunday's La Liga clash between Espanyol and Real Sociedad, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
Sports Mole

Real Sociedad will push to climb back to the top of the La Liga table on Sunday, when they travel to take on newly-promoted Espanyol.

Imanol Alguacil's men dropped off the summit after a draw with Valencia, but they remain just one point behind league leaders Real Madrid, while their visitors sit 10th in the Spanish top flight.

Match preview

Following their promotion from the second tier last season, Espanyol have adjusted well to life back in La Liga, earning 17 points from their opening 14 games.

That has largely been down to their strong defensive record, with Villarreal and Athletic Bilbao being the only sides outside of the top four to concede fewer than the 14 goals that Vicente Moreno's men have shipped so far this term.

However, the Periquitos currently find themselves in a slightly more difficult run of form, having won just one of their last five league outings.

After draws with Elche and Athletic Bilbao and a defeat to Getafe, Moreno's side made a return to winning ways as Adria Pedrosa and Raul de Tomas fired them to a 2-0 home victory over Granada.

In their bid to build a winning run, the Periquitos faced the tough test of a clash with local rivals Barcelona last time out, and they understandably fell to a 1-0 defeat after a valiant effort, with the newly-promoted side now keen to rebound and climb back into the top half.

They welcome a Real Sociedad side who find themselves off the top of the table for the first time since early October.

After losing their opening league game to Barcelona, Imanol Alguacil's side have since not lost in the Spanish top flight, moving onto 29 points from 14 games and taking control of top spot as a result.

However, the hot form of Los Txuri-Urdin has slightly slowed down recently, with the last five games producing two victories and three draws, most recently being held to a goalless stalemate by 11th-placed Valencia.

That was followed by a 2-1 away defeat to Monaco in the Europa League on Thursday, putting an end to their 17-game unbeaten run across all competitions spanning three months.

Now trailing new league leaders Real Madrid by one point, having played a game more, Alguacil's side will be keen to make a quick return to winning ways on Sunday to strengthen their position in the title race.

Espanyol La Liga form:
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • L
  • W
  • L

Real Sociedad La Liga form:
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • D

Real Sociedad form (all competitions):
  • W
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • D
  • L

Team News

Espanyol's only absentee should be full-back Oscar Gil, after Keidi Bare recently returned to full fitness.

Former Real Madrid man Raul de Tomas will continue to lead the line, having hit seven goals in 13 La Liga appearances so far this term after firing them to promotion with 23 goals in the second tier last season.

He will likely be supported by the exciting trio of Adrian Embarba, Sergi Darder and Javi Puado, with Yangel Herrera potentially shielding the defence alongside the returning Bare.

Real Sociedad will be without right-back Aritz Elustondo, who was sent off in the La Liga draw with Valencia, while Carlos Fernandez and Nacho Monreal remain sidelined through injuries.

Star forward Alexander Isak is also a slight doubt after picking up a knock in the defeat to Monaco, in which he scored, but Los Txuri-Urdin will do everything possible to ensure the Swedish international is fit to start.

The midfield unit of David Silva, Mikel Merino and Martin Zubimendi has been impressive so far this campaign, and that will remain unchanged with Adnan Januzaj and Mikel Oyarzabal likely continuing to flank the lone striker.

Espanyol possible starting lineup:
Lopez; Vidal, Gomez, Cabrera, Pedrosa; Bare, Herrera; Embarba, Darder, Puado; De Tomas

Real Sociedad possible starting lineup:
Remiro; Gorosabel, Zubeldia, Normand, Rico; Silva, Merino, Zubimendi; Januzaj, Isak, Oyarzabal

We say: Espanyol 1-2 Real Sociedad

Espanyol will certainly not roll over on Sunday, having proved themselves to be tough to beat, but we see the visitors having the quality to come out with a hard-fought three-point haul.

Raul de Tomas should cause Alguacil's men plenty of problems, but they will be desperate to bounce back from a midweek loss and should scrape over the line in a tough encounter.

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