It's safe to say that Barcelona's emerging bogey team in La Liga seems to be Real Sociedad. Away from home, that is.
Barcelona have not dropped a point to Real at the Camp Nou since 1995, but visits to Anoeta Stadium have been a different story altogether. Just two wins in 10 league trips, to be exact. To put it into perspective, neither Pep Guardiola, nor Tito Vilanova, Tata Martino or now Luis Enrique have procured three points there during their tenure. In fact, the Catalans last experienced the joy of three points there during the 2006-07 season, back when Frank Rijkaard presided over a 2-0 victory.
You get the point.
And, unfortunately for the Blaugrana, the same issue reared its head on Saturday. After relinquishing El Clasico bragging rights to Real Madrid last time out, the leaders' gap atop the table was cut to just three points after they conceded an early first-half goal from Mikel Oyarzabal en route to a 1-0 defeat. And, somewhat coincidentally, it also prevented an out-of-form Lionel Messi his 500th senior career goal for club and country. Newsflash: Until today, Messi hadn't gone four matches without a goal at the club level since April 30-May 15, 2011.
Chasing another personal milestone, the 28-year-old was unable to break down a tactically astute, Eusebio-managed Sociedad side, and thus failed to score for Barcelona for the fourth game running.
Chalk it up to the team's collective struggles or a rather grueling period of travel with Argentina during last months' World Cup qualifiers. Either way, while Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. seem to be gathering steam, Barcelona and Messi appear to be slowly letting their grip slip after being held scoreless in the league for the second time since the turn of the New Year.
Next up, Enrique's side travel to the Vicente Calderon for the second leg of their Champions League quarterfinal tie with Atletico Madrid. Should Messi fail to bulge the back of the net then, it could spell major danger.
The last time he went five games without scoring with Barca? April 14-28, 2010.