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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijon: Match Preview

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FC Barcelona will play their sixth match of the season today, away at Sporting Gijon in a match that could bring them to the top of the table (Pending Real Betis result) should the Blaugrana register a victory. Last season Sporting proved to be a worthy opponent as Barcelona had a tough time achieving a result in both encounters against the Asturian side. The first match at Camp Nou ended with a sole David Villa goal being the difference maker. Later in the Season Sporting were able to hold Barca to a 1-1 draw at El Molinon.

Sporting are currently at the bottom of the La Liga table with a singular point. As a matter of fact, Sporting's draw in the last game is the first time they didn't lose this season. The Asturians appear to be the weakest La Liga side , however, Barcelona are not in very consistent form since they have yet to snatch a win on the road. In fact, Barcelona has failed to win their away encounters in La Liga thus far, as they have drawn at Valencia and Real Sociedad. The inconsistency away from home is particularly worrying, now that Barcelona are likely to field a weakened side with the mounting injuries the squad is facing. Although the match is not expected to be close, Barcelona's erratic away form and growing list of injuries is a cause for concern.

Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are available to play for today's match but, it is doubtful that Guardiola will select both as Barcelona's central defensive pair. Pique is just returning from injury and did not play midweek, while Puyol was complaining of bruising after the game against BATE Borisov. The most worrying news for Barcelona is the absence of Cesc Fabregas, who himself was thought to be a replacement for the injured Andres Iniesta. Thus the injuries to Barcelona's midfield are extensive with Iniesta, Afellay, Cesc, all unavailable for tonight's match. It is expected that Barcelona will line-up in a 3-4-3 formation to make up the numbers for a squad that seems depleted by injuries. Therefore, even though Sporting has not enjoyed a good start to La Liga, Barcelona's own problems will be a detriment to achieving victory especially if Gijon manage to replicate last seasons form for this specific match.

Sporting are in dire need of a life line that will take them out of the relegation spot. One could say there is no better time for Barcelona to get easy point on road, however, one could also say there will never be a better opportunity for Gijon to vanquish a weakened Barcelona side. History is not on the side of Sporting when it comes to facing Barcelona as they have only managed to win against the Catalan giants twice in their last 16 encounters. Barcelona for their part have won 12 of those encounters and the sides have shared the spoils only twice. It is a tough game to call since both sides are not coming into the match in top form and each squad is facing a particular crisis. If one looks at the list of players available, Barcelona still has the deeper pool of talent. The advantage then, however slight, is still in the Blaugranas favor. Ultimately the skill and class of Barcelona will give them the edge that will determine the result of this match up. Even a depleted Barcelona is still dangerous and more than capable of grinding out a result and then some. Down but never out, expect Barcelona to take the match to Gijon and take all three points at El Molinon.

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