The Basques of Real Sociedad land on the Rock this Thursday (9 p.m.) for the 5th day of the group stage of the Europa League.
Real Madrid's runners-up in La Liga, Imanol Alguacil's men are impressive this season.
Fixtures and results Europa League
Europa League standings
A seductive game based on possession and pressing, goals in spades ... the San Sebastian club is undoubtedly one of the scarecrows of this competition.
If the strength of the Spaniards comes above all from the collective, four individualities clearly stand out.
AS Monaco will have to watch them very closely.
The little-known Robin Le Normand
With the exception of La Liga's most assiduous followers, few people know Robin Le Normand.
However, the Real Sociedad defender has been one of the very best centers in the Spanish league for several seasons.
And he's French!
Like Antoine Griezmann, Le Normand, although he was trained in Brest, made his ranges in the Iberian Peninsula, near San Sebastian.
And the least we can say is that the Frenchman has fully immersed himself in Spanish football culture.
Far from current standards of “
”, the 25-year-old has a “
” profile and relies more on his technique and anticipation rather than on contacts.
His main asset is his passing quality, which very often allows him to bring out the ball cleanly.
He is the boss of defense and the real launching pad for his team.
If the Basque Country club has the 3rd best defense in the Spanish league (with only 10 goals conceded in 14 games), Robin Le Normand is no stranger to it.
He is also the 4th player in the championship to make the most passes (his passing percentage is 88%).
Unaccustomed to the light, he was logically elected best player of the month of October in La Liga and could claim a place in the French team in the future.
The Eternal David Silva
After a decade spent making Manchester City happy, David Silva has returned to his native Spain.
Revealed in Valencia, it is on the side of San Sebastian that the Spanish international decided to put his bags down during the summer transfer window in 2020.
Now 35 years old, he has shown, if he still had to, that he was very far from finished.
At Real Sociedad, the Spaniard has lost absolutely nothing of his class and his talent.
The former Skyblues maestro now evolves lower on the field, of course, but he still has his excellent vision of the game and his exceptional passing quality.
Sometimes number ten, sometimes torchbearer, the former glory of La Roja sets the pace and distills many caviar to his partners match after match.
If he obviously no longer has his legs of yesteryear, the ex-Valencian hardly misses any meeting, since he is undoubtedly one of the leaders of this team.
The man with 436 matches in the Manchester City jersey brings his great experience to his young teammates.
His status as a legend of the Citizens has literally earned him a statue of him in front of the Etihad Stadium.
A huge honor that rewards his prestigious career.
Alexander Isak, the future Zlatan?
Considered one of the biggest “
” in Europe, Alexander Isak was a bit late in confirming this status.
Transferred to Borussia Dortmund at only 17 years old, the former AIK Fotboll did not confirm the expectations placed on him.
Very little used, he decided to leave without having succeeded in winning.
The Swede therefore joined Real Sociedad in 2019 with new ambitions.
He found what he had come for: playing time. Two years after his arrival, Isak has more than 100 games played with Real where he has scored 38 goals (he has already scored 5 goals this season, including 2 in the Europa League).
Alexander Isak (center) with Sweden.
TT NEWS AGENCY / PANORAMIC
But the attacker is not just a man of stats, his slender profile clashes.
A complete player, he can play both in pivot and in depth.
And then despite its large size (1m90), it has a good quality of speed and percussion.
Gifted with both feet and head, the Swedish international (32 caps) is reminiscent of his compatriot Zlatan Ibrahimovic (all things considered of course).
Clinic in the face of goals, his quality of finish is wreaking havoc on the lawns of La Liga.
He panics storytellers, so much so that the greats of Europe (FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Manchester United, or Arsenal) are already at his feet.
Mikel Merino, the best player in La Liga?
Like Alexander Isak, Mikel Merino had bad luck at Borussia Dortmund.
Assimilated to a "
", his time in Germany quickly ended (he played only 9 small matches in a single season).
Things went a little better in England at Newcastle, but he was still showing very irregular.
Like the other players mentioned above, the native of Pamplona found his salvation by returning to the country, to Real Sociedad in 2018. He regained his feelings and quickly established himself in the skin of an indisputable holder.
Technical, physical and tactical: the former Osasuna has everything from the perfect midfielder.
As good at defensive tasks as he is at building play, this formidable ball player can do just about anything.
Merino is one of the best scavengers in the championship (averaging 15.7 steals per game).
He is also the player in the Spanish league who makes the most passes under pressure (161).
Estimated at a minimum of 40 million euros, the Spaniard is currently in the best shape of his career. Real Sociedad coach Imanol Alguacil is full of praise for his protégé: "For me, Mikel Merino is the best player in La Liga." The main interested party wished to temper these remarks, even if he still considers himself "
one of the best
Other players, such as former Manchester United cracker Adnan Januzaj, goalkeeper Alex Remiro and especially budding star Mikel Oyarzabal, could also have been cited (but the latter recently returned from injury, so he is not guaranteed that it is holder).
The Stade Louis II will welcome all these beautiful people this Thursday (9 p.m.), we will see if the Basques are as brilliant in the European Cup as they are in the league.