Despite the team’s rotations – Iniesta, Mascherano, Alves, and Alba didn’t play for Barcelona and Abelardo made nine changes with regard to the starting squad last week against Rayo Vallecano – the importance of the clash was vital. In the faceoff between two friends Luis Enrique and Abelardo, Barcelona could take another giant step toward their second consecutive league title. In the case of obtaining any points, Sporting could distance themselves from Las Palmas, Granada, and Levante.

The culés’ greatest merit was the patience to move the ball, not making their game too vertical and knowing that their chances would arrive. Sporting defended on their own half in a 4-4-2 formation, closing the internal lanes and looking to threaten the Blaugranas in the attacking transitions, knowing that the Catalans’ weak spot was the left band where Adriano struggled in defense and didn’t contribute offensively either.

And Barcelona’s opportunity arrived. This time around, Messi played in a more internal position, with Neymar and Aleix Vidal his main partners on the flanks. In one of those occasions, the Argentinian tried a crossed shot from outside the box. The precision and placement of the shot alongside the defender’s legs minimized Cuéllar’s visibility. Three hundred goals in La Liga for the exceptional genius.

Sporting equalized with a counterattack that should be taught in football academies. Castro finished an outstanding offensive transition in the long post where Mathieu, by losing the ball, and Adriano, by losing his position, contributed their part on the goal. But Messi would emerge again, after combining with Luis Suárez and striking the ball with the outside of his left foot. At the Molinón, where Guardiola placed him for the first time as a false 9, his legend has become even greater.

Even while trailing in the scoreboard, Sporting de Gijón left a good impression on the pitch. They have a humble squad but their defensive discipline and the desire they showed in every match will make of them competitors until the end to maintain their spot in the Spanish top flight.

After missing a penalty caused by a foul on Neymar, Luis Suárez redeemed himself with a beautiful curled goal, his 40th of the 2015/16 season and 24th in the league, as the current top striker. Luis Suárez has only played for one and a half season in the Camp Nou but he’s already being compared with the best strikers in the club’s history. A well-deserved praise indeed.

With the same amount of played matches, Barcelona now have a six-point difference against Atlético de Madrid and seven from Real Madrid. Both teams from Madrid will face each other in a fortnight at the Bernabéu. Luis Enrique’s ranks have reached 31 official matches without a defeat and if they do not lose against Las Palmas, they will complete an entire round without a loss in La Liga. The titles at the end of the season are what matters but the road to them is bedazzling.

Anything wrong? Send your correction.

Article translated from Spanish to English, originally published at the Perarnau Magazine by Ismael Ledesma.