Barca to stretch lead


MADRID. — Barcelona can open up a nine-point gap at the top of the Spanish La Liga soccer table ahead of their return to Champions League action against Arsenal next week when they travel to Las Palmas today.

The European champions extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to 31 games with a seventh consecutive La Liga win thanks to a brilliant Lionel Messi double and Luis Suarez’s 40th goal of the season in a 3-1 victory at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

That match had been postponed from December due to Barca’s commitments in the Club World Cup and, having finally got their games in hand out of the way, Luis Enrique’s men can pile the pressure on pursuers Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, who face on paper tougher tests tomorrow.

“There is still a long way to go and, therefore, nothing is done yet,” said Barca midfielder Ivan Rakitic.

“Now we have to focus on the game we have this weekend. The unbeaten record motivates us, but what counts is what you win at the end of the season. We need to remain humble and keep working hard.”

Luis Enrique is expected to rotate once more with the trip to the Emirates in Tuesday in mind. — AFP.


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