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Barca favoured Suarez comes face to face with Girona's Stuani in battle of Uruguayan strikers.

Barcelona's Luis Suarez and Cristhian Stuani of Girona are among the most prolific strikers in La Liga this season and the Uruguay team mates will come face to face on today when the runaway leaders play this season's surprise package.

The Catalan derby is also likely to be historic for both sides, with Girona set for their first ever league game at the Nou Camp and Barca closing in on a club record of 32 consecutive league matches unbeaten.

Suarez has roared back from a slow start to the campaign to score 17 league goals, only trailing his strike partner Lionel Messi, who leads the scoring charts with 20. Below him is Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas on 15, with Stuani next on 13.

Stuani was an unlikely candidate to be in the top four scorers in La Liga after struggling to make the starting lineup for Middlesbrough in the Premier League last season as the club slid towards relegation. But the Uruguayan has profited from his previous experience in Spain's top flight with Espanyol.

He made a flying start in his first game back in La Liga with two headed goals in his Girona debut in a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid and has scored three times in his last two games as his side beat Athletic Bilbao 2-0 and Leganes 3-0.

Stuani and strike partner Portu have been responsible for 22 of Girona's 34 goals but their unlikely rise to eighth in the Liga standings, four points off sixth, which would guarantee them European football next term, has also been built on a defence which has conceded three goals in seven games. Girona were beaten 3-0 by Barca earlier in the season but have a strong record against the top teams in the league, beating champions Real Madrid 2-1 in October and drawing both games with second-placed Atletico Madrid. 'Girona have the ability to hold our own against Barcelona,' said midfielder Alex Granell.

'We have always shown that we have a lot of ambition and while the game will be a party for our supporters and everyone who loves Girona, for the players it's another game to prove we can compete with anyone.'

Barca lead nearest challengers Atletico by seven points in the standings and can extend that advantage to 10 a day before Diego Simeone's side face a testing trip to Sevilla, who knocked them out of the King's Cup last month.

Real Madrid host Alaves today after climbing back into third place in the standings and moving 14 points behind Barca by winning their game in hand over Leganes on Wednesday.

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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Feb 24, 2018
Words:496
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