Luis Enrique says it is a privilege to have Lionel Messi in his team after the forward passed 300 Primera Division goals in Barcelona’s 3-1 victory at Sporting Gijon.
The Argentina international reached the landmark on 25 minutes and took his tally to 301 after Carlos Castro had delivered an immediate response for Gijon.
Luis Suarez put a missed penalty behind him to add the third in the 67th minute as Barcelona extended their lead at the top of the table to six points.
“It is a privilege to have Messi whoever you are playing against,” Barca boss Luis Enrique said in his post-match press conference.
“Suarez’s goal did us a lot of good because it took off some of the pressure.
“We obviously need to do better from penalties, but we have every confidence in Luis, Messi and Neymar. They’re three great penalty takers.”
Luis Enrique grew up as a Sporting fan and said before the match that if Barcelona’s record 30-match unbeaten run was to end, he would want it to do so at El Molinon.
But Gijon never looked likely to break Barca’s spell and remain two points above the drop zone.
Luis Enrique added: “Sporting looked good to me. They played without several regulars but competed hard. We played seriously and that won us the three points.
“Sporting are playing well enough to avoid the drop. They’ve been out of the relegation zone for a few games now so it’s in their hands and the fans are behind them.
“I’m not very sentimental, and I come to Gijon every summer and Christmas so I see my family a lot. But it’s always a pleasure to come to the Molinon and it’s been a very nice day all round for me.”
The result leaves Madrid rivals Atletico and Real with it all to do in the title race and Luis Enrique admitted Barcelona were in an ideal position.
“I’m optimistic in any situation,” he said.
“In the last 10 games the teams that need points the most will win matches, but we are where we want to be.”
Sporting Gijon manager Abelardo Fernandez conceded his side were helpless to stop the reigning champions.
“We tried plugging gaps and breaking quickly, but obviously it’s not easy,” he said.
“I thought we had a great game and we had a chance to make it 2-2. I’m told there was a penalty, but I haven’t seen it. We did our best.
“Barca are from another galaxy. There’s a Barca player who costs more than Sporting’s entire budget.”