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Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijón, 2017 La Liga: Team News, Preview, Predictions

Can Barça maintain an impressive league streak?

Club Atletico de Madrid v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Let's get this straight right off the bat: this has been a bad Barcelona season. The performances get worse and worse, the Champions League is basically over, and there have been almost zero games that got us excited about a team that signed great young players to strengthen the bench in the summer and still maintained a world-class starting unit.

During this poor, inconsistent season, we need to try and look at a few positives: Samuel Umtiti looks like the real deal and capable of leading the Blaugrana defense for the next decade; Marc-André ter Stegen has established himself as the undisputed goalkeeper and a very talented one; Lionel Messi is Lionel Messi, and the 'MSN' trio is still capable of producing even though the collective quality has completely gone south.

The most impressive thing about this season, however, is the one we're not talking about: a 17-match unbeaten streak in La Liga. This may seem like not a big deal because Barça don't lead La Liga and will probably need a victory at Santiago Bernabéu to have a shot at beating Real Madrid and winning a third straight league title. But going 17 matches without a loss even though the team hasn't played well in at least a dozen of those games is a testament to how good this team is.

Imagine if this team was well coached? We'll probably have to wait for Jorge Sampaoli to see this team being well coached again, but until the summer Luis Enrique is the man and he'll try to lead his mediocre team into an improbable La Liga trophy. The next challenge is Sporting Gijón at Camp Nou, and if Barça can reach 18 games without a loss, the streak will continue and league glory may still be a possibility.

Here's the problem, though: Barça's season has been so poor that we don't know if Barça can actually beat one of the worst teams in Spain. It's game by game, and the win won't come because of the coach.

Please sign that damn contract, Sampaoli.


Jérémy Mathieu was wonderful against Atlético Madrid, but because this season sucks he'll be out for a few weeks thanks to an injured ankle. The good news is the other injured center-back on the team, Javier Mascherano, will probably be in the squad and may get at least 30 minutes of action in his comeback. Arda Turan is also coming back from a groin injury and may be in uniform on Wednesday.

As far as the starting lineup, we're not likely to see the 3-4-3 used against Atlético thanks to Mathieu's injury and the need for a more offensive setup to try and break a defensive Sporting side. Expect a small rotation of the team that won at the Calderón, with Andrés Iniesta and Rafinha Alcântara going to the bench and Denis Suarez playing with Sergio Busquets and André Gomes in midfield.

The 'MSN' will play up front, with Jordi Alba coming back to the left-back spot and Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué and the wonderful Umtiti completing the side. Barça need to control the match through good midfield play, and while that's a distant dream at the moment, we never know. Fingers crossed!


Barcelona: WWLWDW

Sporting: DLWLLD


Barcelona (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Piqué, Umtiti, Alba; Gomes, Busquets, Denis; Messi, Suárez, Neymar

Sporting (4-1-4-1): Cuéllar; Lora, Amorebieta, Babin, Canella; Vesga; Rodríguez, Cases, Gómez, Burgui; Traoré


Mediocre performance, good result thanks to 'MSN' brilliance. We know how this season goes. 3-0 Barça.

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