SPORTING - BARCELONA

El Molinón return for Luis Enrique as Barça face Sporting

A win for the Catalan club would see them move six and seven points clear of Atlético and Real Madrid, respectively.

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LaLiga gets back on track today after Barcelona’s participation in the Fifa Club World Cup in Japan in December which forced them to postpone their Week 16 fixture against Sporting Gijon. El Molinón opens its doors to the league leaders who can open a considerable gap at the top of the table with a win in the Asturian city this evening (lick-off 1830 CET).

Luis Enrique returns home knowing that maximum points would see his side open a six point gap ahead of Atlético (currently in second place) and seven points ahead of third placed side Real Madrid, who have still a trip to the Camp Nou ahead in the first weekend of April. Sporting themselves have objectives but of a different kind with the Gijon based side just two points above the relegation zone and have failed to secure maximum points on their last eight LaLiga matches.

Barça leave Sergi Roberto and Jordi Alba behind this evening which is part of Luis Enrique’s squad rotation planning. Mathieu will reluctantly play as wing back whilst the midfield is set to feature Rakiitic, Busquets and Arda with Iniesta set to start on the bench, one of the luxuries of Barça having a talent laden squad. Whilst Sporting look on with envy and jealousy due to the Asturian club being embargoed in signing players, they are forced to make do with the raw material currently at Abelardo’s disposition.

The Sporting coach is set to make a major overhaul from the team who secured a 2-2 draw last Friday against fellow stragglers, Rayo Vallecano. 21 year old Chilean, Lichnovsky is set to make his league debut and will pair up with Meré, a player who has impressed Barça talent scouts in the past.

The Barça front three are the main threat to Sporting and will be acutely aware that it’s been over 20 years since the home side managed to secure maximum points against the Catalan club at El Molinón.