FC Barcelona took to the pitch for their sixth league match of the season on Sunday in an away fixture against Sporting Gijon, with a spot at the top of the La Liga table on the line.
For the first time in recent memory, the Spanish giants found themselves working to climb the table and take the first place spot, after two early draws saw them in a surprising fourth place position as smaller La Liga organizations enjoyed their brief moment of glory.
Predictably, that didn't last for long. As both Barca and Real Madrid have rediscovered their winning ways, the table has already begun to reorganize itself to something a bit closer to what fans of the game would expect.
Barcelona entered the match expecting to dominate Sporting Gijon, a side coming into the fixture following their fourth defeat in five matches. And, as expected, Barcelona did just that, earning a 76 percent share of the possession and outshooting the home side 14-4.
What wasn't quite as expected was Sporting's defensive prowess, who surprisingly held Barcelona to just one goal in 90 minutes, despite those statistics. Barcelona scored early on, in the 12th minute, when Adriano buried the ball after Xavi's long strike at goal rebounded off the post. But Gijon would not make another mistake following that moment.
Barcelona, who played without the attacking presences of Andres Iniesta and Alexis Sanchez once again, and who added Cesc Fabregas to their list of injured first-team players earlier in the week, simply lacked the spectacular finishing ability that they are typically so known to possess, largely thanks to a Sporting defense that wasn't taking any chances.
Despite Sporting's impressive showing, they played most of the match in their defensive half and rarely pushed forward to gain attacking momentum. The one goal was all that Barcelona would need to secure the victory and a first place spot in the standings.
Barca now share the top spot with Levante, who have an equal number of points after six fixtures. But Barcelona's goal difference stands an impressive fourteen goals better than Levante's, a testament to just why the club is expected to hold the No. 1 spot for the long term, while Levante is expected to eventually drop out as Barca and Madrid commence their annual race for the title yet again.