Pete Jenson: Real Sociedad bring few expectations - and little pressure

A different league

Beware the team with nothing to lose. Real Sociedad, La Liga’s fourth Champions League representative (the Real that gets €14m a season in television money not the one that hoovers up €140m) will turn up at Old Trafford tonight with 7,000 supporters behind them and none of the pressure being heaped on David Moyes.

“If we win then we are back in the fight for a place in the last 16,” said winger Antoine Griezmann. The peroxide-blond French-Basque whose overhead kick in Lyon helped seal his team’s place in the group stage, also knows that if they fail then there will be no recriminations.

Arsenal finished fourth in the Premier League last season and then broke their transfer record to sign Mesut Özil. La Real finished fourth in Spain, have no regular shirt sponsor, and made no significant investments, losing midfielder Asier Illarramendi to Real Madrid for €32m (£27m).

Three days ahead of the richest football match on the planet in La Liga this is the other side of the peseta – Real Sociedad still have the same back four they had in the 2009-10 season when the club were stuck in the Second Division and still recovering from a period in administration.

The future looks tentatively brighter. There is talk of adidas becoming kit suppliers again as they were in the Liga-winning campaigns of 1981 and 1982. And adidas-sponsored Xabi Alonso, out of contract at Real Madrid at the end of the season, could also be on his way back.

In two years collective bargaining might also be in place but, in the meantime, Madrid and Barcelona take €280m (£237m) between them from the television pot and Real Sociedad earn half as much as the team finishing bottom of the Premier League.

Their youth system has been their salvation. Illarramendi’s sale swelled the coffers this summer. Griezmann could be next year’s departure.

He had the video camera out on arrival in Manchester yesterday. The 24-year-old cannot wait to step out onto the hallowed turf. And they really do see it as hallowed. They use the Spanish translation of “theatre of dreams” (Teatro de los Suenos) when referring to Old Trafford and they watched enviously last year when local rivals Athletic Bilbao visited in the Europa League.

“I was here as a fan last Christmas” said Griezmann (right). “It was a surprise trip with my brother to watch Manchester United v Newcastle.”

With the camera, and the talk of hero Robin van Persie being “one of the best centre-forwards in the world”, Griezmann might come across as a tourist but he’s here for business – his team must go for it after losing their first two matches.

New coach Jagoba Arrasate, who replaced Philippe Montanier at the end of last season, has been too conservative so far.

Montanier’s exit was agreed long before he made a mockery of the decision by guiding the team into the Champions League. Real had tried to hire Gerardo Martino but he was in the middle of a Copa de Libertadores campaign  with Newell’s Old Boys when they made their approach.

Martino ended up at Barça and Real ended up promoting from within – they had a team of home-grown talent so why not a coach who had also come through the club.

Having spent most of his coaching career so far in the Third Division, Arrasate is also cheap. And unlike his opposite number tonight, he will not have his future discussed at length if he fails to win this evening.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project