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Sporting Gijon vs FC Barcelona: A Barca Blaugranes Roundtable Preview

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As promised, we'll now have roundtables previews for the biggest/most important Barcelona match week. This week, we really didn't have much of a choice, since this one is the only match. Barcelona travel to Gijon seven points clear at the top and will face a team fighting to avoid relegation. As always, Barcelona's sole objective is to win the match in order to maintain or even increase the gap at the top.

Here's how we at Barca Blaugranes see this match:

Arron Duckling:

Next up for the Blaugrana is a trip to El Molinon to face a resurgent Sporting Gijon. Gijon may have lost 3-0 to Athletic Bilbao last week, but beforehand had won each of their last 3 games in the league. However, Barcelona have their 16 game winning streak at stake, and considering it took 5-0…sorry 50 years to break Real Madrid’s record, they will not be in a hurry to lose it in their very next game.

Also at risk is Barca’s 100% away record, so the odds it seems are certainly stacked the Asturians. However, Barcelona are usually sufferers from the FIFA virus, so Gijon could be more likely to get a point than you might think.

Also ahead for Pep’s men is the Champions League match at the Emirates (no, I didn’t know either), and that could mean that key players are rested in anticipation of the tie.

In spite of this, I expect Barcelona to be too strong for their opposition whatever XI is fielded, and David Villa, a former Gijon player, to get a much needed goal (or two). I also expect Leo Messi to shine yet again before he heads to England to destroy the Gunners.

Hopefully another manita is on the cards?

Bostjan Cernesek:

This is an important game for both teams; for Barcelona the obvious reasons are keeping pressure on Real Madrid and extending the record run to 17 games. And for Sporting, despite the fact that they lie in what would seem a comfortable 13 place on the table, they are just one point from the relegation zone.

While on paper this should be an easy game for Barcelona, I don't expect Sporting Gijón will just roll over and allow the best team in the world to score goal after goal. Gijón are currently enjoying one of their best stretches in the three year period they are in the Primera Division. After winning three games in a row they lost a week ago at San Mamés, which is a tough place to play at.

But we have to be honest here, none of the teams they beat come even close to the quality Barcelona put out on the field week after week. I do expect some changes in Pep's team though, firstly because many of them played 90 minutes on Wednesday in international friendlies and secondly because there is a somewhat important game coming next week against Arsenal.

It appears that Guardiola will have (almost) everybody available for the game. Puyol and Jeffren are still out with injuries and it appears that they will be out for a while longer, but with only Carles enjoying a regular first team spot the injuries front is very encouraging for now. And even in his absence Abidal has played on a very high level in the middle and Maxwell has also done a good job on the Frenchman's usual left side.

On the other side, manager Manuel Preciado is in a bit worse situation than his managerial counterpart. Alberto Lora and Gregory Arnolin, both defenders, are suspended and playmaker Sebastian Eguren will probably be unable to play due to a shoulder problem.

Manuel Traquete:

I've got to be honest here: after Barcelona (obviously), Sporting Gijon is, along with Villareal, my favorite team in La Liga. I really, really want them to stay up. There's every reason to like them: they're a small humble club, who's doing very well given their resources, and they're David Villa's first club. And of course there's Manuel Preciado, one of nicest and funniest managers you'll ever see. His dispute with José Mourinho earlier this season was epic; Mourinho accused Gijon of throwing the match at Camp Nou and Preciado called him a scumbag for saying such thing. After Real Madrid narrowly beat Gijon 1-0, Mourinho showed two fingers to Preciado from the Real Madrid bus (presumably meaning second division). Before the bus left, Preciado's last words to Mourinho's assistant were: "I hope Barcelona put five past you". Famous last words, epic I'd say.

Barcelona did put five past Real Madrid and granted Manolo Preciado his wish. How great would it have been if Preciado had filed a complain to the Spanish FA about another team rolling over at Camp Nou? After all, Gijon only lost 1-0.

As you see, there's every season to like Sporting Gijon. I'll be pulling for them in every match... except tomorrow. Much as I want Gijon to stay up, Barcelona have goals of their own and they just can't be compromised. The blaugrana are currently on a legendary 16-match winning streak and they'll be looking to extend it further and keep the momentum ahead of next week's Champions League match at the Emirates.

With that match in mind, as well as the international friendlies on Wednesday, Guardiola might rest some of his usual starters, but we can rest assured that whoever plays will give their all and do a good job.

It's never easy to play at Gijon, the atmosphere at El Molinon is always very intense. Last season, Barcelona ground out a 1-0 win, courtesy of Pedrito. This year, it will be complicated as well, especially since Gijon have been in excellent form.

Barcelona are expected to take all three points, but only if they can remain focused. If the players' minds are on the Arsenal tie, then it will be impossible to win. Guardiola has always empasized that the team must take one game at a time and that's exactly what Barcelona must do now.

Beating Gijon would be a huge step towards capturing the third consecutive La Liga title. As always, you can follow the match and share your thoughts on it live in our open game thread, which will start about half an hour before kick-off.

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