What a devastating week it’s been for Barcelona – in the best possible sense.
Any doubts about Luis Enrique’s side – which surfaced after defeats to Athletic Club, Celta Vigo and Sevilla – have disappeared after 16 goals and three wins against Real Madrid, Roma and Real Sociedad.
Neymar scored twice and Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi were also on target as La Real became the latest victim of football’s most deadly attack.
This wasn’t even Barça at full pelt, either. They were slow getting started, but once they got going they were far too strong for an Real Sociedad side who didn’t do a great deal wrong.
As well as the front three there were impressive displays from Dani Alves – who created the first two goals – and Andres Iniesta, who contolled proceedings from the middle of the pitch.
The Catalan side are now nine points ahead of Real Madrid, albeit having played a game more – Los Blancos travel to Eibar on Sunday.
Jeremy Mathieu took Jordi Alba’s place at left-back, but other than that it was Luis Enrique’s favoured line-up for La Liga games, with Messi making his second start since recovering from a knee injury this month.
It was Real Sociedad who made the brightest start, though. New manager Eusebio – who replaced David Moyes recently – had a point to prove having been sacked as Barça B boss earlier this year and his side looked to catch the home side cold.
There was a nervy exchange of passes between Claudio Bravo and Dani Alves, while Imanol Agirretxe’s strength caused several problems inside the opening few minutes.
However, with less than four minute on the clock, Barça raced up the other end and should have scored. Suarez was denied by the impressive Geronimo Rulli on this occasion, but it was a sign of what was to come.
Next it was a Messi-Neymar combination which lured Rulli off his line, with the visiting goalkeeper snaring the ball away from Neymar’s feet as he looked to dash around him.
Andres Iniesta then hit the post from a Suarez cross as Barça – who were far from full throttle – looked to turn the screw.
The breakthrough eventually arrived in the 22nd minute. Dani Alves latched onto a Messi pass and centred the ball, with Neymar arriving in the nick of time to perfectly turn the ball into the roof of the net – it was his 13th goal in La Liga this season.
La Real’s best chances to equalise came from free kicks and corner, but they couldn’t take advantage of their dead ball situations and were made to pay by Suarez just before the break.
Alves was one again the creator – although Iniesta’s ball in the build-up was gem – with the Uruguayan meeting the Brazilian’s deep cross to splendidly volley home for the second time in less than a week.
It took just eight minutes of the second half for Barça to ruthlessly put the game beyond Real Sociedad’s reach – if it wasn’t already.
Iniesta was again involved, although it was the left full-back, Mathieu, who provided the assist this time.
The Frenchman’s low cross was met by Neymar and the Primera Division’s leading goal scorer turned him his 14th of the league campaign and his 16th in all competitions – MSN now have 42 between them and that’s with Messi missing two months of action.
All that was left was for Barça to try and get the Argentine on the score sheet – and they tried.
He came closest when connecting with a Neymar cross, but his well-executed volley was whiskers wide of Rulli’s close.
Moments later, more good play between the same duo created another chance for Messi, but he could only poke the ball straight at Rulli.
Real Sociedad ended the game in the ascendency – although always prone to conceding again on the counter – and substitute Bruma twice came close, once shooting wide and later being denied by Claudio Bravo.
In fact, the Basque side actually played well, but they were unable to deal with Messi, Neymar and Suarez – can anyone?
Moments after Bruma drew the best out of Bravo, Messi hit the bar at the other end following another breathless counter.
Barça didn’t give up, though, and Neymar, perhaps the best player on the pitch, set up Messi for a tap in after a lovely Suarez flick.