Already well adrift of great rivals Real Madrid, Barcelona must face Sporting Gijon this weekend without top scorer and talisman Lionel Messi.
The 24-year-old added to the 28 goals he has scored in the Primera Division this season with his first international hat-trick in Argentina’s 3-1 win against Switzerland on Wednesday night but he must sit out Saturday’s match at the Nou Camp through suspension.
Pep Guardiola’s side have the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the table to seven points, with Real not playing until Sunday, and Barcelona president Sandro Rosell insisted this week they have not given up hope of a fourth successive title.
“The word impossible should exist, but not for this case,” said Rosell. “Impossible is when mathematics say so. Meanwhile, nothing is impossible.”
Sporting sit only one place off the bottom of the table but the game has been given added spice by coach Javier Clemente’s comments this week that he did not like Barcelona’s much-lauded style of football.