preview | 2016-09-23
Sporting Gijón vs Barcelona
Next up for Barcelona is a trip to Luis Enrique’s hometown to take on Real Sporting de Gijón. Gerry Johnston talks us through Saturday’s opposition
Sporting come into Saturday's game off the back of consecutive defeats to Atletico Madrid (5-0) and Celta de Vigo (2-1). Prior to those games Sporting were unbeaten with seven points from their first three games. They have a perfect home record so far this campaign with wins over Athletic Club and Leganes at El Molinon. Barcelona will be a tougher task for them but their home record will give them confidence that they can take something from the game.
Head to Head
Barcelona have an excellent record against Sporting with 12 wins in the last 13 meetings between the clubs. The one blemish on Barcelona’s otherwise perfect record was a 1-1 draw away from home in February 2011. On that occasion Barcelona fell behind to a David Barral goal before David Villa earned a point with an equaliser 10 minutes from full time. Barcelona’s unbeaten run against Sporting stretches to an impressive 17 games and you would have to go as far back as September 1994 for Sporting’s last win against Barcelona. On that occasion Sporting won 2-1 at El Molinon.
Where are we playing?
Saturday’s game takes place in the Estadio Municipal El Molinon. El Molinon is famous for being the oldest football stadium in Spain and it is now 108 years old, although Sporting didn’t play there until 1917. The current stadium has a maximum capacity of 30,000 spectators. El Molinon was used in the 1982 World Cup with three group matches taking place there. All three games involved eventual runners-up West Germany.
The man in the opposite dugout will be no stranger to Luis Enrique or Barcelona fans. Abelardo Fernandez is a childhood friend of the current Barcelona manager and he also played for the Blaugrana for eight years between 1994 and 2002. In his time with Barcelona Abelardo won two La Liga titles (1997/98, 1998/99), two Spanish Cups (1996/97, 1997/98), the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1996/97), the UEFA Super Cup (1997) and two Spanish Super Cups (1994, 1996).
As a coach Abelardo has managed Sporting B twice, Candas and Tuilla before becoming Sporting’s Head Coach in 2014. In his time in charge he has led the club to promotion from the Segunda in 2014/15 before a 17th place finish saw them avoid relegation last season.
Injuries and Suspensions
Sporting have two players who could miss Saturday's game. Moi Gomez, who missed the Celta game on Wednesday, is struggling with a quad injury and has not yet been cleared to play. Douglas, who is on loan from Barcelona, is also doubtful after picking up a freak injury on the team bus. The Brazilian fell asleep and woke up with a pain in his glutes and he is also doubtful for Saturday's game.
Possible Starting XI
Sporting had lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation in each of their league games this season prior to the defeat to Celta de Vigo last Wednesday. They started with a 4-4-2 against Celta but it is expected they won't play two up front against Barcelona and will return to their 4-2-3-1 on Saturday.
GK – Ivan Cuellar (32 years old)
The former Atletico stopper has been at Sporting since 2008 and won the Ricardo Zamora Trophy for Best Goalkeeper in the second division in Sporting’s promotion season (2014/15).
RB – Alberto Lora (29 years old)
Lora has been at Sporting since joining from Real Madrid in 2006. He is the club captain and has made over 200 league appearances for the club.
LB – Isma Lopez (26 years old)
Lopez began his career with Athletic Club but joined Sporting in 2013. He was a part of the Spain under-17 squad that won the 2007 UEFA European Under-17 Championship.
CB – Fernando Amorebieta (31 years old)
The former Athletic Club defender returned to Spain in the summer after three years in England. Amorebieta played for Spain at youth level before representing Venezuela 15 times at senior level.
CB - Jorge Mere (19 years old)
The highly rated youngster has been at Sporting since 2010 and came up through the youth system. He was a member of the Spain team that won the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in 2015.
CM – Sergio Alvarez (24 years old)
The midfielder has been at Sporting for his entire career and has now made over 100 league appearances for the first team. He was capped by Spain at youth levels but has never appeared for the senior team.
CM - Nacho Cases (28 years old)
Cases is another product of the clubs academy. The creative midfielder has made over 150 league appearances since breaking into the first team in 2011.
RW – Douglas (26 years old)
The Brazilian is on loan from Barcelona and he is eligible to play against the club that owns his rights. Things haven't worked out for him in Catalonia but he will be eager to prove his doubters wrong if he gets to play on Saturday.
AM – Victor Rodriguez (27 years old)
The Barcelona born midfielder spent time at La Masia as a youngster before being released as he was deemed to be too small. He has been relegated from La Liga two years in a row with Elche and Getafe.
LW – Burgui (22 years old)
Burgui is on loan at Sporting from Real Madrid. He has never represented his parent club in La Liga but spent last year on loan at Espanyol where he made 26 appearances.
CF – Duje Cop (26 years old)
The Croatian international is on loan at Sporting from Cagliari in Serie A. He spent last season with Malaga and netted seven times for the Andalusians.
Others in contention
Lillo (27 years old)
The full back joined the club in the summer after three years with Eibar whom he helped to the Segunda title in 2013/14.
Jean-Sylvain Babin (29 years old)
The French born Martinique international defender has been playing in Spain for eight years now. He had two years with Lucena, four years with Alcorcon and two years with Granada before signing for Sporting in the summer.
Xavi Torres (29 years old)
Torres had a spell with Barcelona between 2007 and 2009 where he played under Pep Guardiola for both Barcelona B and Barcelona. He has played for Malaga, Levante, Getafe and Real Betis since leaving Catalonia and is another who joined Sporting in the summer.
Akram Afif (19 years old)
The Qatar international first moved to Spain in 2012 when he joined Sevilla's youth team. He signed for Villarreal initially in 2014 but left for a season with Eupen in Belgium before returning to Villarreal in the summer and being loaned to Sporting.
Moi Gomez (22 years old)
Gomez joined Sporting in the summer from Villarreal. Gomez broke into the Villarreal first team as a 17 year old and looked to be a promising prospect but he was loaned to Getafe last season before leaving on a free in the summer.
Borja Viguera (29 years old)
Viguera is another one who joined the club in the summer. The forward signed from Athletic Club. The best spell in his career came between 2012 and 2014 when he was averaging more than a goal every other game for Alaves.
Carlos Castro (21 years old)
Castro has been at Sporting since joining the youth setup in 2009. He graduated through the B team and has now made over 50 league appearances for the first team.
The experienced defender will be key on Saturday as Sporting attempt to keep Barcelona at bay. Amorebieta should be directly opposite Luis Suarez and he will have his hands full with a man many consider to be the best striker in world football. The Venezuela international has been key in Sporting's wins this season and although Barcelona will be without Lionel Messi it should still be a busy day for the Sporting backline and Amorebieta will have to rely on all of his experience if Sporting are to get a result.
Alvarez has been having a very good season for Sporting and Abelardo will need him at his best on Saturday. Alvarez will be the most defensive of Sporting's midfielders and with Barcelona expected to dominate possession he will have to work hard to protect the defence.
If Sporting are to get a goal at the weekend it is likely that the Croatian will be involved. They have only scored five goals this season and he has netted three of them and assisted on another. In a game where Sporting probably won't see a lot of the ball his hold up play will be important as Sporting look to set up counter attacks.
With Messi out for Barcelona every game automatically becomes more difficult. Sporting will make things hard for Luis Enrique's side but Barcelona should have too much quality and will earn a 2-0 win in a tough encounter.
Anything wrong? Send your correction.
WRITTEN BY: Gerry Johnston
Gerry Johnston is a 31 year old Civil Servant from County Antrim, Ireland. Gerry has been writing about football for various websites since Euro 2012 and he has been a Barcelona fan since the mid 90s.