Slow starts to seasons are beginning to become something of a regular occurrence for Real Sociedad as, like last year, their early season form has generally left a lot to be desired.
After 10 matches this term Jagoba Arrasate’s men had managed to win only three and had just one more point than at the same stage last season. Their saving grace under Philippe Montanier, however, was losing just two of their last 28 League matches.
Their successes of last year have been well documented and earned them a first Champions League campaign since the 2003-04 season, but they are already in huge danger of leaving the competition without a trace.
After three defeats from their opening three matches, anything other than a win at Anoeta against Manchester United will make qualification from Group A impossible.
They have of course enjoyed an upturn in form recently and after their previous run of no wins in eight in all competitions, they have only tasted defeat once in their last five.
Three wins and a draw in La Liga has seen them move up to seventh and their 5-0 hammering of Osasuna on Saturday sees them go into Tuesday’s clash full of confidence.
Star winger Antoine Griezmann embodied that re-emerging belief in the club’s pre-match Press conference on Monday: “We're going to make it tough for United. We can beat anyone at the Anoeta and we want to give the supporters something to cheer about.”
United have also shown plenty of weakness so far this season, but in the Champions League their woes have been less apparent after two wins and a draw so far.
A win could virtually secure progression to the next round, providing Bayer Leverkusen beat Shakhtar Donetsk in the group’s other tie, but the Premier League champions have only won three of their last nine away matches in the competition.
While United know a win could take a great deal of anxiety away from their two remaining matches, La Real’s absolute need for a win could prove to be pivotal.
Their determination may shine through and allow them to stun David Moyes’ side, but at the same time the pressure could prove to be too much, forcing them to freeze on the big stage.
If United play to their ability, they should have no problem picking up at least a point in Donostia, but how many times have people been able to say that about them this season? Not often.
That in itself makes Real a dangerous opponent, for whom it will be ‘do or die’ on Tuesday.