Group A: Real Sociedad, not settling for just taking part

Having seen an impressive performance last season in La Liga, going fourth place, there were some concern when they draw experienced Ligue 1 outfit, Lyon in the Champions League playoff.




But impressively composed performances in both legs, and outstanding goals from Antoine Griezmann, Haris Seferovic and Carlos Vela saw them sail through 4-0 on aggregate. 

Playmaker Xabi Prieto said he wanted Manchester United in the draw. That wish was granted, with fans also happy as Group A's other sides, Shakhtar Donetsk and Bayer Leverkusen, are seen as tough but beatable. 

It will be a challenge for Real Sociedad given that this season's side are much less experienced, especially rookie coach Jagoba Arrasate, who stepped up when Philippe Montanier left for Rennes in the summer. Arrasate, 35, was coaching at regional amateur team Elgoibar just three years ago, but you would not have thought it from the way his players were tactically and mentally prepared for the Lyon ties. 

One of the most amazing thing about Real Sociedad is how everyone is contributing to the team's performance. While last season's La Liga top three clubs rely contributions from specific individuals like Leo Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Radamel Falcao, the fourth-placed side shared the goals around. Agirretxe and Vela were joint top scorers with 14 in the league, though Griezmann (10) and Xabi Prieto (9) were also regularly on target. 

Everyone at Anoeta is delighted to be in the competition though, having come this far, nobody is settling for just taking part. The Basques look capable of emulating neighbours Athletic Bilbao and fellow La Liga side Malaga by remaining in Europe past Christmas, and could well be the hipsters' choice/neutrals' favourites in this season's competition.

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