FC Barcelona coach Luis Enrique returns to his home town tomorrow evening as his side looks to extend their 30 game unbeaten streak against 16th placed Sporting Gijon. This game was postponed due to Barcelona’s involvement in the Club World Cup in December and a win could see them move 6 points clear of Atletico Madrid and 7 clear of Real Madrid.
Luis Enrique did not hide his feelings in his pre-match press conference today saying “Whenever I go back to El Molinón, it’s special” but “Tomorrow I’m going back as a coach and I want to win … Sporting is a very hard-working team that uses their defence to manage their attacks and they’re one of the most intense teams in the league.” He is well acquainted with Sporting’s manager Aberlardo Fernández who was a school friend and the pair played together at FC Barcelona. Gijon’s manager admitted “Barça is unbeatable at the moment and it’s tough to do damage against them.”
Luis Enrique has decided to make the most out of tomorrows game by resting Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto. Both have been left out of the 18 man squad and Enrique confirmed they are not injured. The full squad is as follows : Ter Stegen, Bravo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Alves, Arda, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Neymar , Mascherano, Bartra, Munir, Adriano, Aleix Vidal, Vermaelen and Mathieu. Masip,Douglas and Sandro will also miss tomorrows clash.
Barcelona fans will be excited to see how their youngster Alen Halilović who is on loan at Sporting preforms tomorrow against his idols. He has been given regular playing time from Aberlardo and scored on Friday night in Gijon’s 2-2 draw at Rayo Vallecano.
History does not favour a Sporting victory tomorrow with Gijon’s last victory over the Catalans coming in October 1994. Since that victory the two sides have meet 15 times with Barcelona winning 13 of those drawing away at El Milinón in 1996 and 2011. Don’t completely rule out Gijon though as they have already claimed a point from Real Madrid this season when Madrid visited on the opening day of the season.
The match is an earlier kick off of 5:30PM GMT and is available on Sky Sports.