Barcelona beat Rayo Vallecano on Thursday night to set a new record of 35 unbeaten matches, but as both Luis Enrique and Leo Messi have said this season, records themselves mean little without the silverware to go with them.


The relentless nature of Barca's performances of late don't indicate much chance of a slip-up any time soon from the Catalan giants, but they should still be looking at the upcoming couple of games as an opportunity: a chance to rotate the side a little more heavily before a period which will determine exactly if they can go on and repeat last season's treble success.


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In terms of La Liga, the last five fixtures will pose no problems at all. If Barcelona still hold a points advantage over Atletico Madrid by that time, the title is as good as theirs. Deportivo, Sporting, Betis, Espanyol and Granada will all be swept aside with customary ease, even the one or two battling against relegation and their local rivals. Just before that, though, comes the difficult run: four league matches against genuine rivals and tough opposition, and the return leg of the Champions League last 16 tie against Arsenal.


The Gunners, followed by Villarreal, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad and Valencia is the key period for Luis Enrique and co. He will want the full complement of his playing staff available to get through that determining run of fixtures, playing the strongest side whenever possible for those five games in the space of a month-which will have a further two games added in between, the Champions League quarter finals, assuming Arsenal are seen off.


It makes the next two games an unmissable opportunity for the manager, to rest a few key players and get full use out of his squad.


There are three tiers of players in the Barcelona team: the starters, the regular rotation options and the fringe players.


The 'MSN' front three, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and so on come into the first group. Jeremy Mathieu, Sergi Roberto, Arda Turan and a couple more make up the middle tier, with a small handful including Thomas Vermaelen, Munir and Adriano in the last group.


For Eibar away and Getafe at home, the next two games for Barcelona, plenty of the latter two groups should see game time, perhaps even getting back-to-back starts.


Neymar is suspended for the next game, so is assured of a rest, but Luis Suarez has played the greatest volume of minutes at the club this season, with over 3,600 already. Sergio Busquets isn't far behind, while Ivan Rakitic and Javier Mascherano have both also breached 3,000 minutes this season. All should be considered for a match on the sidelines and the Barcelona squad is versatile enough so that it can be managed without problem. Sergi Roberto's capacity to play anywhere in midfield or at full-back allows for him to make consecutive starts, while Mascherano is of course an option to fill in for Busquets in midfield when the Spanish international takes his turn out of the team. Mathieu can cover centrally or for Jordi Alba on the left of defence, Arda Turan can fill midfield or wide attacking roles and Aleix Vidal can feature down the entire right flank.


Perhaps the only key question is what to do with Messi. He rarely appreciates being rested of course and thrives on consistently featuring and scoring, but Barcelona need him at his peak for the month-long run of games if both Liga and Champions League success is to be on the cards. He may be the front man who needs to start both games, but is subbed off early if things are going Barcelona's way in the second halves.


With seven goals and four assists in his last six league fixtures, plus a couple of goals against Arsenal in the first leg, it's fair to say he's back toward his top form of late in terms of effectiveness in front of goal, even if his in-game participation is lowered at times.


There are few teams on the planet as good as Barcelona, especially once they get into a run of form and have trophies in their sights. Their mentality is every bit as impressive as their level of technical ability and it will take a mammoth effort for any team to stop them.


If it happens, it'll be in the run from mid-March to mid-April, but with a rested and rotated squad, don't bet on it happening at all.