Barcelona travel to Real Sociedad on Sunday night, looking to extend their nine-point advantage over second-placed Atletico Madrid at the top of the La Liga table.
Here, we look at three key talking points:
IS OUSMANE DEMBELE CLOSE TO HIS BEST LEVEL ALREADY?
At 20, the world’s third most expensive player will only get better – and that’s a mouthwatering prospect for Barcelona.
Whilst the former Borussia Dortmund man is still finding his feet following a long lay-off with a hamstring injury, we saw glimpses on Thursday, in the Copa del Rey against Celta Vigo, that it won’t take the attacker a great deal of time to get fully back into his stride.
Three substitute appearances on the bounce have helped him settle back in to the La Liga leaders’ line-up and that 32-minute cameo just a couple of days ago lit-up the Camp Nou in the 5-0 second leg cup romp.
Late on, from a corner, Dembele put the ball on a plate for Ivan Rakitic to head home – showcasing his ability to deliver via his right foot, as well as his favoured left. Generally, he was a towering presence, down the right flank in particular, dribbling the ball at pace, winning five out of six individual duels and constantly looking for a killer pass.
Having recovered from a slight niggle it will be interesting to see whether Ernesto Valverde decides to give the France international his first start in a Barca jersey since September or bring his freshness on from the bench as Sergio Busquets looks like one man being likely to return to the midfield for more steal.
Either way, Dembele seems to have quickly got up to speed with the pace of the Spanish top flight, and from here, we should really start seeing the best of him.
Dembele could start on Sunday evening.
CAN BARCELONA FIX WOEFUL RECORD AT THE ANOETA?
Quite remarkably, Real Sociedad have won five out of their past seven league meetings with Barcelona at the Anoeta Stadium.
You wouldn’t go quite as far to say the Basque country side are a bogey team for the Catalan club, but certainly, in San Sebastian, Sociedad hold a hoodoo over the visitors.
In fact, Barcelona’s last La Liga win in the north of Spain came in 2007.
Perhaps, over a decade on, the tables are about to turn though with Barcelona being in blistering form and Eusebio Sacristan’s men enjoying a steady, if not spectacular campaign in mid-table.
PLAYERS PLAYING FOR THEIR PLACES
With Philippe Coutinho expected to be fit in a couple of weeks following his mega-money switch from Liverpool, the brilliant Brazilian is all set to be catapulted straight into the Blaugrana first XI midfield – which means one of Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Andres Iniesta and Paulinho are likely to come under pressure for a spot in the side.
The 25-year-old has been billed as the heir to club captain Iniesta’s throne, and while that may be a bit premature given the Spaniard is still influencing games, it seems like a natural transition between the two that could happen sooner rather than later.
While this fixture comes too soon for new signing Yerry Mina, who is expected to make his debut on Thursday during the first leg quarter-final Copa del Rey clash with city rivals Espanyol, the likes of Samuel Umtiti, when fit again, will have to battle it out for a centre-back position upon his return.
Competition at right full-back is healthy and Thomas Vermaelen is performing well, so there may well be a dual for one central defensive berth – especially if stalwart Javier Mascherano completes his switch to China during the transfer window.
New signing Yerry Mina was presented at the Camp Nou on Saturday.