Paulinho came to Barcelona with a lot of people doubting him. I included myself in that group, and although I still have my reservations about the signing, I think it’s fair for us to say he’s exceeded expectations.
The midfielder bagged two goals against Deportivo La Courña in Barcleona’s 4-0 win, meaning not only does the Brazilian have more goals than Cristiano Ronaldo in La Liga, he has more goals than any Real Madrid player in La Liga. Wow.
He’s also got more goals + assists than any other midfielder in La Liga. Sure, plenty of them are scrappy rebound goals, but, not all of them are, and plus, his poaching ability comes in handy.
With Paco Alcácer injured, Paulinho has to be the favorite to start el clásico against Real Madrid. At the very least, I expect Ernesto Valverde to throw him on as a sub if Barça need a goal.
The other possibilities to start could be Aleix Vidal if Valverde wants an out-and-out winger, or possibly Sergi Roberto in a more advanced role with Nelson Semedo at right-back.
There’s also a clear possibility Thomas Vermaelen could start for Barça, which would make for a very interesting lineup. Can you imagine telling a Barça fan at the start of the season that Paulinho and Vermaelen would both start el Clásico?