CAN Barcelona extend their La Liga lead to six points by seeing off struggling Sporting Gijon on Wednesday evening? Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at the odds.
Sporting Gijon v Barcelona | Wednesday 17.30 | Sky Sports 2
What were you doing between 8.30pm and 9.20pm on Sunday night? Can you remember? It was Valentine’s Day so you may have been forced out for dinner by the other half, perhaps?
Luckily I managed to postpone any Valentine’s shenanigans until this coming weekend and made the fortunate decision to watch Barcelona host Celta Vigo instead of the Serie A offering of Fiorentina v Inter. It was one of my best ever choices.
I have to say, Barca produced one of the greatest 45 minutes of football I think I’ve ever seen. They were as close to footballing perfection as is possible. They were mesmeric, they were beautiful, they were unstoppable and colossal and outrageous and outlandish and heavenly and supernatural and wondrous and downright ridiculous.
I mean, are there any superlatives left in the dictionary to describe the club from the past 10 years? I might be turning 30 this year but I’d be surprised if I ever see a side that’s better than the Barcelona we’ve been privileged to follow. I’ll try and keep this together, for your sakes as much as my own – apologies.
I wasn’t alone, though. The Catalan newspapers were also drooling over the magical 6-1 destruction with Monday’s headlines including, “They make you fall in love,” The complete show,” and “Messi directs a work of art”.
Luis Enrique’s men extended their club record unbeaten streak to 30 games (W24-D6-L0) with that magical 6-1 destruction despite having to overcome a tricky first 45 minutes. And now last season’s treble winners turn their attentions to a trip to Asturias on Wednesday evening for a rescheduled La Liga clash with struggling Sporting Gijon.
The Catalans star-studded cast hold a three-point advantage over Atletico Madrid at the La Liga summit and will double that if they win at El Molinon, the first of three successive away fixtures that culminates in a visit to Arsenal in the Champions League next week.
Since taking charge of the Camp Nou club, Luis Enrique’s overseen W20-D5-L4 in 29 away La Liga days. A whopping 12/29 (41%) have ended in victories by at least a two-goal margin, meaning a repeat should be well within their capabilities on Wednesday evening.
The M-S-N trident in Barca’s attack should again feature from the off and together they’ve notched a ridiculous 53 league goals between them this term – Suarez (23), Neymar (17) and Messi (13) – that’s more than all their divisional rivals have managed in total, bar Real Madrid.
But I prefer the even-money available from Ladbrokes on Barcelona winning this fixture ‘to nil’. It’s a feat the Catalans have achieved in 14 of their 24 victories during their club record run and under Luis Enrique’s watch, Barcelona have shutout 10 of their 14 bottom-half hosts in La Liga action (W10-D3-L1).
Sporting have picked up eight points from their last 12 available (W2-D2-L0) but endured a frustrating outing last Friday, twice taking the lead at home to fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw.
Abelardo’s troops are without injured top goalscorer Antonio Sanabria here – the youngster has been responsible for 10 of Gijon’s 26 goals this term (38%). And although the hosts have averaged more shots-on-target than all their divisional rivals bar Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla at home, they’re yet to play a top-eight side at El Molinon since the opening day against Madrid.
Barca could well bring in Rakitic and Aleix Vidal from the off here but they’ll still field a strong enough XI that’s capable of commanding possession and shutting their newly-promoted hosts out.
Sporting Gijon v Barcelona – Barcelona to win ‘to nil’ (1/1 Ladbrokes)
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