Iniesta: Barcelona must step up when Messi is absent

The Blaugrana looked set to drop more points in La Liga as they struggled to break down Sporting Gijon on Saturday in the absence of their suspended Argentine before winning late
Andres Iniesta believes that Barcelona need to raise their game whenever they are forced to make do without the services of talismanic striker Lionel Messi.

The Catalans were without the diminutive Argentine for Saturday night's 3-1 victory over Sporting Gijon at Camp Nou because of suspension - and it showed, with the Catalans only picking up three vital points thanks to late goals from Seydou Keita and Xavi.

Iniesta, who opened the scoring, feels that the onus is on all of Barca's players to step up to the mark whenever their No. 10 is absent.

“When an important player like Messi can’t play, we all must try a bit harder," the Spain international is quoted as saying by his club's official website. "[But] once again, the team played some great football."

Barca had been made to work hard for their win, though, with David Barrall having drawn Sporting level just moments after Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique had been sent off in the early stages of the second half.

In the end, Iniesta was just grateful for a victory which drew the Catalans to within seven points of La Liga leaders Real Madrid, albeit having played a game more than Los Blancos.

“The game got tough after the referee’s decision [to dismiss Pique], but we had to attack," the World Cup-winner pointed out. Our necessity is winning three points week after week.

“The gap is considerable, but we have to fight until the end."

Barca now shift their attention to the Champions League and Wednesday night's Champions League last-16 second-leg clash with Bayer Leverkusen.

Since November, has been publishing exclusive extracts from Graham Hunter's highly-anticipated new book, 'Barca: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World'. The very last extract, which was published last Friday, looks at Andres Iniesta's risky return from injury in the 2009 Champions League Final and how he was described by Wayne Rooney as the 'best midfielder in the world'. Don't miss it!