The Anoeta curse continues for Barcelona. The Catalans have failed to win away to Real Sociedad since 2007 and were unable to end that sorry streak in a 1-1 draw on Sunday. But it could have been far worse in the end.
Outfought and out-thought on Sunday night, Barca's midfield sank without trace in the first 45 minutes in San Sebastian and Real Sociedad were unfortunate to go in without reward for their fantastic first-half display.
Barcelona's midfield was once the world's finest. But with Xavi gone, Andres Iniesta injured and Sergio Busquets currently a shadow of his former self, it is no longer the side's strongest sector. This Barca is much more reliant upon its three attackers, but even they need service from the centre of the park.
La Real took the lead eight minutes into the second half and it was no more than they deserved, Willian Jose heading home as Gerard Pique could only help the ball into the roof of the net. Javier Mascherano had also missed a great opportunity to clear in the build-up to the goal.
An impressive run down the left by Neymar and a fine finish from Messi, who teed the ball up for himself and slotted in amid a seemingly non-existent space brought Barca back in it. Once again, it was the MSN to the rescue. But unlike at Mestalla and at the Sanchez Pizjuan in similarly poor performances recently, this time there was no late winner.
In fact, that should have gone to Real Sociedad. Carlos Vela rattled the crossbar from long range and Juanmi headed home the rebound, only to be incorrectly ruled offside. And in the dying minutes, Vela also sent a stinging shot against the post from distance. The Basque outfit deserved to win it; Barcelona most definitely did not.
Luis Enrique had pulled off Ivan Rakitic at half-time and sent on Denis Suarez in his place. The latter brought better balance and attacking play in the continued absence of Iniesta through injury, but once again Andre Gomes was disappointing and there remain big question marks over the Portuguese midfielder's suitability in this team.
"I don't say this very often, but today the draw was a good result," Pique admitted after the match. And he added: "Playing like this, it will be difficult for us to win La Liga."
That is true, although the side's struggles at Anoeta are nothing new and a six-point deficit means little at this stage of the season. League titles are seldom decided in November.
"We played the worst game since I have been here," Luis Enrique said afterwards. "I'm sure we will see a different Barca against our fierce rivals in the Clasico."
Barca host Madrid at the Camp Nou next weekend and with a six-point gap between the two teams already, he had better make sure there is dramatic improvement for the visit of Los Blancos. Because another performance like this one and La Liga really will start to slip from their grasp.