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Barça are in action against Sporting Gijón on Wednesday at 7.30pm CET, and to make sure you are fully informed ahead of the match, here’s a round of ten basic things that every good fan will need to know:
- The visiting club hail from the region of Asturias on the north coast of the Iberian Peninsula, where they play at the oldest ground in professional football: El Molinón, named after an old water mill that once stood close by. The exact origins of the ground have been lost, but the club has been playing games on the site since 1908.
- History suggests a home win is very much on the cards. This will be the 43rd time that Barça have hosted Sporting in a league fixture, and they have only lost one of the previous encounters. That was way back in February 1987 when Terry Venables’ side, top of the league at the time, suffered a shock 4-0 home defeat.
- Barça boss Luis Enrique was born in Gijón and was, of course, a product of the Sporting youth system, and made 35 league appearances for their first team, scoring 14 goals. Although he has not been professionally linked to them since 1991, it is no secret that he still feels a strong emotional connection to his hometown club.
- Barça won this fixture 6-0 last term, with Luis Suárez scoring no fewer than four of those goals. And when the two sides met at El Molinón earlier this season, it was another rout, 5-0 to Barça. Sporting keeper Pichu Cuéllar has every right to worry. Not only was he on the wrong end of all eleven of those goals, but he was also the goalie for Atlético Madrid when they were hammered 6-0 at home by Barça in the 2007/08 season.
- Sporting manager Joan Francesc Ferrer (AKA Rubi) is from the town of Vilassar de Mar, just up the Catalan coast from Barcelona, and was briefly connected to FC Barcelona in the past. That was in 2013 when he was part of the coaching team under first Tito Vilanova and then Gerardo Martino before he left after being handed the head coaching position at Real Valladolid.
- It was against Sporting that Zlatan Ibrahimovic made his Barça debut back on 31 August 2009. The Swede got off to a fine start, scoring in that game to open the league season and going on to find the target in the next four matches as well.
- Three members of the current Sporting squad have Barça connections. Defender Douglas of course is currently on loan to the Asturian outfit, while midfielder Xavi Torres made his first team debut under Pep Guardiola in the treble winning year. The other is midfielder Carlos Carmona, who was in the Barça B squad under Luis Enrique and playing alongside Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and Jordi Masip.
- We all know about Barça’s famous Masia, but Sporting are also famed for their own youth development programmes. In fact, Barça have often drawn on the ‘Mareo’ academy for playing resources. Examples include Iván Iglesias, who scored in the 5-0 win for the Dream Team against Real Madrid, Enrique Castro ‘Quini’, Abelardo Fernández and Julio Salinas.
- The best known connection in recent years is David Villa, who featured in the second division for Sporting from 2001 to 2003. Later, he’d be at Barça for three seasons, and scored the solitary goal for the Catalans in a 1-0 win against his old club in the 2010/11 championship.
- Sporting Gijón have never won a major honour. Their best Liga placing was second in 1979, while they reached two consecutive Copa del Rey Finals in 1981 and 1982 but lost them both (first to Barça and second to Real Madrid).
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