Lionel Messi's Barcelona emerge from summer of gloom to shine again

Paulinho, a Luis Suarez double and Messi score in comeback win over Real Sociedad to maintain unbeaten start to the campain

Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona - Anoeta Stadium, San Sebastian, Spain - January 14, 2018   Barcelona’s Lionel Messi celebrates with Luis Suarez after scoring their fourth goal    REUTERS/Vincent West

After producing a sensational comeback from two goals down to beat Real Sociedad 4-2 on Sunday, Barcelona sit nine points clear at the top of the Primera Liga and everything in their garden looks rosy again.

Back in August, after a humiliating 5-1 defeat by Real Madrid over two legs in the Spanish Super Cup, that situation was unthinkable.

The Catalans had lost Brazilian forward Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain and failed to sign their top summer target Philippe Coutinho.

The former Liverpool playmaker is now a Barcelona player, however, and on the field things have improved massively.

Ernesto Valverde's Barcelona are unbeaten in 29 games, although at two goals down against Sociedad at Anoeta, a ground where they had not won in La Liga since 2007, it seemed their streak would end.

"It's been years since we won here in the league and it looked familiar when we fell behind but we were able to react," midfielder Sergio Busquets said.

"We have been at an excellent level and some of our rivals have slipped up, some more than others. We're unbeaten and we've won at some tough grounds. After the Super Cup and what was said afterwards, we've been able to kick on and move forward."



Barcelona have become a side who can win in different ways, with the stunning football produced in the 5-0 win over Celta Vigo in the Copa del Rey on Thursday replaced by something more pragmatic at Sociedad.

Paulinho's presence in the team facilitates that, with his energy and power helping Barcelona become more of a force in midfield and he has added goals too.

The Brazilian scored the first of the team's four strikes in San Sebastian, taking him to eight league goals for the campaign. Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo has four.

Barcelona's arch-rivals are fourth, 19 points behind, and now they are more concerned about second-placed Atletico and Valencia in third.

"It doesn't interest me how Madrid are doing," full back Jordi Alba said. "We can't rule out those that are ahead of them."

Although both Atletico and Valencia have strengthened in the current transfer window, Barcelona have too with Coutinho's arrival and Ousmane Dembele's return to fitness.

It would be no surprise if Valverde's side grew stronger in the weeks to come and their sights are firmly set on wresting back the title.