Tiring Barca extend unbeaten run to 32

Barcelona forward Neymar putting his team back in front just before half-time against Las Palmas.
Barcelona forward Neymar putting his team back in front just before half-time against Las Palmas.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
Neymar celebrating with team-mates Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi after his goal, which turned out to be the winner. His visibly jaded team have played 17 games in the last two months. Still, Arsenal will have to stop this trio to get a good result in
Neymar celebrating with team-mates Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi after his goal, which turned out to be the winner. His visibly jaded team have played 17 games in the last two months. Still, Arsenal will have to stop this trio to get a good result in London tomorrow night.PHOTO: REUTERS

BARCELONA • Barcelona's top scorer Luis Suarez has admitted that the European champions are feeling the effects of their hectic schedule across six competitions this season, ahead of their return to Champions League action against Arsenal tomorrow night.

The Uruguayan netted his 41st goal of the season, as Barca opened up a nine-point lead (before last night's matches) over Atletico Madrid at the top of the Spanish Primera Liga thanks to a hard-fought 2-1 win at Las Palmas on Saturday.

The victory was Barca's eighth straight in La Liga, part of a 32-game unbeaten run in all competitions stretching back to October.

However, the visibly jaded European champions had to withstand a late onslaught from relegation-threatened Las Palmas to protect Neymar's first-half winner.

"To win titles, you have to suffer and we've now had a couple of games away from home where we have struggled," Suarez told Canal Plus. "It is not an excuse, but we know we have played a lot of games in the last month and a half. Players always want to play as many games as possible and have that rhythm."

Despite Barca's pending visit to the Emirates Stadium, coach Luis Enrique rested only Gerard Pique, while Sergio Busquets was suspended. And, after 17 games in the last two months, including a trip to Japan for the Club World Cup, the coach admitted that he can ask little more from his squad.

"When you have to play every two or three days, the only thing I can ask is that they compete and that is what we did," Enrique said. "We can be more or less precise, have more control, but I am happy with what I saw."

Javier Mascherano was moved from defence into midfield in the final stages of Saturday's game as Enrique introduced an extra defender to try to protect Barca's lead.

And the Argentinian believes the champions had themselves to blame for such a tight finish after missing chances to settle matters before half-time.

"Perhaps we could have killed the game (off) earlier. We didn't manage it and then it is normal with such a tight result that we suffered towards the end," said Mascherano.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2016, with the headline 'Tiring Barca extend unbeaten run to 32'. Print Edition | Subscribe