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FC Barcelona got back to winning ways in midweek in comprehensive fashion, yet there is little time for the Catalans to savour it as Saturday brings another must-win game.
The 8-0 win over Deportivo La Coruña on Wednesday has restored the confidence in the squad following three straight league losses, and the visit of Sporting Gijón to Camp Nou can bring Barça within just three games of winning the title.
For the Catalans, the big relief is that Leo Messi is fit to play despite being on the receiving end of a number of strong challenges at Riazor. Luis Enrique, however, will be unable to call upon the injured trio of Sandro Ramirez, Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu.
The coach also dropped Masip, Douglas and Aleix Vidal from an 18-man squad that reads as follows: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Dani Alves, Arda, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar Jr, Rafinha, Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto and Adriano.
On the opposite bench, as his return to Camp Nou approaches, Abelardo has doubts over the fitness of Sergio Álvarez and Tony Sanabria. The former long-serving Barça defender has decided to leave Meré, Ndi, Jony and Alberto García out of his squad.
Speaking to the media on Friday, Luis Enrique expressed his delight at getting back to winning ways but stressed the need to remain focused to close out the title race
“We need to win all four remaining games. They’re vital. The win at Riazor was perfect for us. It has boosted us but we now have to confirm that in the games we have left”.
Sporting Gijón lie one point from safety in eighteenth place, but the manager is not willing to let the vast difference between the two sides become an excuse.
Abelardo insists that his team “will make sure that Barcelona have to play at their absolute best to win”.
Barça managed to get out of their slump of four league matches without a win on Wednesday, yet they need no reminding of the fact that their last two home league games have resulted in defeat, against Real Madrid and Valencia respectively.
Saturday’s visitors earned a massive three points against Sevilla (2-1) in midweek thanks to an injury-time winner from Isma López and, in their last five games have also beaten title-challengers Atlético Madrid. However, Sporting have won just once in their last 13 league away matches.
Barça have won the last ten games against Sporting at the Camp Nou. Incidentally, the last time the club from Gijón avoided defeat at the home of the Catalans was in 1992, in a 1-1 draw, Abelardo was playing at the heart of the Barça defence.
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