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Unstoppable trio looks to keep Barca ahead in Spain

AP , Thursday 18 Feb 2016
Messi and Suarez
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi, left, smiles with his teammate Luis Suarez during a training session at the Sports Center FC Barcelona Joan Gamper in San Joan Despi, Spain, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 (AP)

The line keeps moving in the Spanish league. Now it's Las Palmas's turn to try to stop Barcelona and its thriving trio of forwards.

It will be a difficult task for Las Palmas on Saturday considering how well Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar have been playing. Even more so with the modest Canary Islands club struggling and fighting against relegation.

A win will give the Catalan club a nine-point lead before rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid play on Sunday.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar have scored 34 goals in the last 13 Barcelona games, and the team has won 12 in a row when at least one of them played. Only once was the trio scoreless -- a 2-0 win over Espanyol in which Munir El Haddadi netted both goals.

''They are from a different galaxy,'' Sporting Gijon coach Abelardo Fernandez, a former Barcelona player, said after his team's 3-1 home loss to the club Wednesday.

Together, the Barcelona forwards have scored more goals than all other Spanish league teams with the exception of Real Madrid, which has the league's best attack with 70 goals. Barcelona has scored 65. Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema have scored 53 league goals among them, three less than the Barcelona trio.

Suarez is the league's leading scorer with 24 goals while Neymar has 17 and Messi 15.

''The three beasts we have up front are at a different level,'' Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta said after the 6-1 thrashing of Celta Vigo in the previous round. Celta coach Eduardo Berizzo called the Barcelona trio ''voracious attackers.''

Messi, Suarez and Neymar have scored 89 goals in all competitions this season and are on their way to breaking the record of 122 they set last year. Suarez alone has scored 40 goals in 36 matches.

Other things to watch this weekend in the Spanish league:

Big lead

With a win at Las Palmas, Barcelona will open a nine-point lead atop the Spanish league and put pressure on rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, which play Sunday.

Barcelona holds a six-point lead over Atletico and a seven-point advantage over third-place Real Madrid after 24 rounds. It's the biggest lead of the tournament this season.

Atletico hosts fourth-place Villarreal while Real Madrid plays at Malaga.

Tough task

Las Palmas remained fairly optimistic for the game against defending champion Barcelona despite recent struggles.

''Barcelona's budget is 20 times bigger than ours but we will give everything we have,'' Las Palmas president Miguel Angel Ramirez said. ''We want the game to be a party to the entire Canary Islands.''

Promoted to the top tier this season, Las Palmas has lost four of its last five games and dropped to relegation zone after a 2-0 defeat at Sevilla on Sunday. It has 21 points and is 18th in the 20-team standings.

Back to work

Real Madrid quickly switched its focus back to the Spanish league after an important 2-0 win at AS Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday.

Madrid plays at Malaga on Sunday to try to win its fourth league game in a row and keep pace with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid atop the standings.

''We are seven points behind and it will be difficult but we are giving it everything,'' coach Zinedine Zidane said following his head-coaching debut in the Champions League. ''We are going to rest well and think about the Malaga game. On Sunday we will try to do everything to get what we need to get.''

Stopping the streak

Atletico Madrid will likely have its hands full trying to win its second game in a row on Sunday when it hosts Villarreal at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

Villarreal is only six points behind Atletico in the standings and hasn't lost in 11 rounds, winning eight games and drawing three.

''They beat us last year, we know it's going to be difficult,'' said Atletico forward Antoine Griezmann.

Atletico wants to keep alive its winning streak after a run of four games without a victory, which included an elimination in the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey.


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