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Barcelona 6-1 Sporting Gijon: Rakitic completes rout as hosts cruise

Goal.com logo Goal.com 02-03-2017
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Barcelona maintained momentum in the title race in La Liga, hammering Sporting Gijon 6-1 at Camp Nou on Wednesday.

Playing a couple of hours before Real Madrid took on Las Palmas, Luis Enrique's side proved far too strong against his hometown club to move top of the standings, at least momentarily.

Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez netted either side of a Juan Rodriguez own-goal, although Barca's recent dalliance with a confusing set up at the back led to a disjointed defensive display, which opened up space for Carlos Castro to score.

Barca's backline routinely transitioned between a three-man and four-man assembly, with Sergio Busquets particularly being found out for the Sporting goal.

Suarez's bulleted finish put the strugglers back in their place however, with Paco Alcacer, Neymar and Ivan Rakitic finding the net in the second half as Barcelona cruised to victory.

Barca have now won five home games on the spin in La Liga - their best run in a year - and their surge in form bears similar hallmarks of the title win in Luis Enrique's tumultuous first season in charge.

Sporting set up to frustrate with a five-man midfield, but they were largely obliging for Barca's opening two goals, scored within two minutes of each other.

Messi flicked a superb header over the leaping Ivan Cuellar on the end of a long Javier Mascherano pass over Sporting's faulty offside trap, which again failed as Neymar slipped in Suarez and his cross-shot was shanked into the Sporting net by Rodriguez in the 11th minute.

Busquets was tasked with a role transitioning from midfield to defence as Barcelona went in and out of possession and his positioning was off as Burgui slipped Sergio Alvarez into the area and Castro converted on the rebound after his colleague hit the post.

Suarez soon restored the two-goal cushion, however, blasting home a volley after Jean-Sylvain Babin's headed clearance went up in the air, rather than away from danger.

The penetrative runs of Burgui and Neymar on opposite flanks gave the game a sharp feel and each player tested their opposition goalkeeper within a minute of each other.

But the second half began in familiar fashion as Babin dwelled on the ball and Messi pounced to set up Alcacer for a goal four minutes after replacing Suarez.

Following Suarez's half-time withdrawal, Messi was taken off on the hour in the first of three home games in a week, with Celta Vigo visiting on Saturday before the midweek mission impossible against Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League follows.

Neymar remained in the hunt, though, and he curled a superb free-kick in at the near post to score, quite remarkably, his first league goal of the season at Camp Nou.

Barca were jeered on their last home outing - a narrow win over Leganes - but they roared with approval when Rakitic slammed home a late sixth as the Catalans' return to bulldozing brilliance suggests the title race really is one that will run right to the finish line.

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