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Sporting Gijon v Barcelona: Alba eager for champions to march on

Jordi Alba hopes Barcelona can maintain their phenomenal form when the Liga champions travel to Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

Luis Enrique’s men hold a three-point advantage over Atletico Madrid at the summit and will double that if they win their game in hand at Sporting – a match originally scheduled amid Club World Cup commitments in Japan back in December.

Preparations for the game at El Molinon began with Barcelona in high spirits on the back of Sunday’s stunning 6-1 demolition of Celta Vigo.

John Guidetti’s penalty six minutes before half-time cancelled out Lionel Messi’s opener, but Barca wowed Camp Nou with a virtuoso display in the second period.

Luis Suarez completed a 22-minute hat-trick when Messi audaciously touched a penalty kick into his path, while Ivan Rakitic and Neymar stylishly piled on more misery for their beleaguered opponents.

“We were at a really high level,” Alba said. “Maybe Celta can be accused of tiredness after their efforts on Thursday in the Copa del Dey, but we were great in the second half.

“The boss tells us what we are doing right and what we are failing at. Celta is complicated opponent but the instructions of the coach helped us to win.”

Alba’s fellow full-back Dani Alves was not as satisfied with matters after the Vigo match.

He made way for Aleix Vidal after an hour – the Spain international an increasingly strong competitor for Dani Alves’ regular starting berth.

Having reacted angrily to being substituted, Dani Alves said: My beahaviour? I was angry against myself because I was not good in the game. Nothing more, that’s why I reacted like that. “

Wednesday’s match is the first  of three away games in seven days for Barca, concluding with a Champions League trip to Arsenal next Tuesday.

Midfield duo Ivan Rakitic and Arda Turan are among those who could start, perhaps with captain Andres Iniesta taking a rest, if Luis Enrique chooses to shuffle his pack ahead of a busy spell.

Sporting endured a frustrating outing in La Liga last Friday, twice taking the lead at home to fellow strugglers Rayo Vallecano before being pegged back to a 2-2 draw

The hosts have not won this fixture since consecutive triumphs in 1994, although Barca needed a David Villa equaliser 10 minutes from time to escape with a 1-1 draw in 2010-11 – the year of their third and final Liga title win under Pep Guardiola

On-loan Barcelona midfielder Alen Halilovic is eager to line up against his parent club for Sporting, having come off the bench to score against Rayo.

“I’m motivated to play against Barcelona,” the 19-year-old Croatian told Sport.

“They’re the best team in the world and have the best players. It would be the first time I take on my idol, Messi, the best.”

Messi is within sight of his latest career landmark – a goal against Sporting would take him to 300 in La Liga.

Mon 15 Feb, 2016
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