Barca hoping to defy off field distractions

MADRID - Barcelona will try to put institutional uncertainty off the field behind them to remain on top of La Liga for a record 59th consecutive round of fixtures when they host Malaga on Sunday.
Sandro Rosell (left) unveiled Neymar (right) as Barcelona's new signing last summer. Net photo.
Sandro Rosell (left) unveiled Neymar (right) as Barcelona's new signing last summer. Net photo.

MADRID - Barcelona will try to put institutional uncertainty off the field behind them to remain on top of La Liga for a record 59th consecutive round of fixtures when they host Malaga on Sunday.

The Spanish champions have had an unsettling week as president Sandro Rosell resigned on Thursday after a judge agreed to hear a case made against him for alleged misappropriation of funds in the signing of Brazilian star Neymar last year.

However, coach Gerardo Martino shrugged off suggestions that movement in the boardroom could prove a distraction for his players.  “It’s not really something which is a matter for the players or the coach,” he said.

Neymar will not be available for selection in any case as he continues to recover from an ankle sprain.

There was some good news for the Catalans in midweek as they all but sealed their place in the semifinals of the Copa del Rey with a 4-1 win over Levante in the first leg of their quarterfinal thanks to a hat-trick from Cristian Tello.

The real star of the show, though, was Lionel Messi as he showed a return to his best form with three defence splitting assists for Tello to fire home in the second-half.

“He can change any game. He can open any tight defence,” added Martino.  “He didn’t score, but he made three goals and he played for the team.”

By the time Barca take to the field at the Camp Nou on Sunday night they could be down in third place.

Two consecutive draws for co-leaders Barcelona and Atletico Madrid has allowed Real Madrid to cut the gap at the top to just one point.

Los Blancos are the first of the title challengers in action this weekend as they host Granada at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Carlo Ancelotti’s men have enjoyed a dream start to 2014 as they are on a run of eight straight victories and haven’t conceded a goal in six games since the turn of the year.

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