Barça played host to “Los Pepineros” on Sunday as they looked to increase their gap at the top to 5 points. After their impressive win against Levante in the Copa, they looked to continue their form in La Liga. Leganés have won just once in their last five league fixtures while Barça is on a roll, winning six league games in a row.
Leganés are one of only two teams to have beaten Barca this season. Leganés have the second least number of shots (66 to Atletico’s 58) conceded and enjoy only a 43.3% possession behind only Getafe (41.9%). Barça would have a lot of the ball, but their finishing needs to be clinical to come away with a win.
Formation and Lineups
Barça made a few changes from their last league fixture with Messi and Rakitic on the bench. Vermaelen returned to the starting lineup after his injury absence, while Aleñágot a rare start in the midfield along with Arthur and Busquets.
Leganés were missing their star players, top scorer Guido Carrillo and midfielder Rubén Pérez. However, the man who scored twice in their win against Barça earlier in the season, El Zhar was left on the bench with the 22-year-old En-Nesyri starting instead.
Leganés started the game by pressing Barça high up the pitch trying to force a mistake. However, Barça was comfortable with possession as Aleñáand Arthur saw a lot of the ball and began to control the midfield. A couple of unnecessary fouls from Braithwaite and Busquets earned them yellow cards within the 15 minutes. Barça continued their dominance in possession with the majority of the attack coming through Dembélé, who showed his blistering pace and brilliant dribbling skills.
Around the 30th-minute mark, Barça eventually broke the deadlock. It was Piqué who started the move with a Messi-esque dribble beating 2 defenders on the right flank and then lost possession to a foul, the advantage was played, and the ball eventually found Alba on the left-flank. Although there was no Messi on the pitch, his typical cutback this time found Dembélé, who in turn, took a first-time shot past the keeper into the far corner.
The last notable action of the first half was a couple of minutes before the whistle. Ivan Cuellar and Luis Suárez race for the same ball- the goalkeeper comes in contact with Suárez on the edge of the six-yard area, but the Uruguayan initially stays on his feet and then dramatically falls to the turf. The referee waved the play on and the first-half ended with the solitary goal to Barça. They ended the half with a 70% Possession.
Barça had a few half-chances at the beginning of the second half, one notably that fell to Coutinho. The move was all about Dembélé, as his backheel flick nutmegged and the defender and set Coutinho free in the box, however, the Brazilian could only send his curler well over the bar.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Leganés equalized out of nowhere. En- Neysri raced down the left flank, and Alba’s ill-timed challenge takes him out of play while pushing the winger forward. He then cuts it across the box for a simple tap-in for Braithwaite.
Valverde reacted to the goal by making two changes, bringing on Messi and Rakitic for Aleñá and Arthur. It seems things turned from bad to worse for Barça, as Dembélé slipped and hurt his ankle, and limped off the pitch to be replaced by Malcom.
As we have seen so many times in all his playing career, Messi took things into his own hands as he dribbled past the Leganés defence and smashed a brilliant shot from outside the box which keeper Ivan Cuellar somehow gets to. Suárez was lurking around in the box and reacted fast to poke the rebound into the empty net. However, there was drama as the goal was referred to VAR as Suárez’s knee appeared to catch the face of the keeper. However, the goal stood and Barça took the lead.
Barça looked more settled after the introduction of Messi who made an impact, despite being on the pitch for less than 30 minutes, with a number of dangerous passes that put Leganés defence under immense pressure. The Argentine finally put his name on the scoresheet three minutes into the extra-time. The typical one-two with Alba found himself free from his marker inside the box, before unleashing a right-footed thunderbolt into the roof of the net.
It was 3-1 to Barça at the final whistle as they maintain their lead 5-points lead at the top.
- Arthur should start every game
Arthur has already shown how comfortable he is with the ball. He has displayed his calmness on the ball when pressed high. But if there was one apprehension about his ability, it was whether he could produce those killer through passes. But yesterday’s game showed that he has it in his repertoire and it can only get better. He should be starting every game irrespective of the opposition.
- Aleñá needs more minutes
It was great to see young Carles Aleñá in the starting lineup. The 21-year-old put in an impressive performance on his first La Liga start. He was intelligent, full of energy and attacking intent and it was disappointing to see him taken off just after the hour. He had an impressive 100% take-ons, 94% pass accuracy, 2 chances created, 2 fouls won and 1 interception. It was a promising full La Liga debut and Aleñá proved he deserves more minutes, let’s hope he gets them.
- Dembélé’s Injury Concerns
Ousmane Dembélé put in an outstanding performance today in one of his best performances in a Barça shirt. He was a constant threat all night, his blistering pace terrified Leganes, and he opened the scoring with a fine goal. He also showed off his brilliant dribbling ability in a quite exhilarating performance.
But his night ended in disappointment as he limped off with a sprained ankle. Given his form in the recent months, Barça would be hoping it won’t be a major injury and he can get back to full fitness soon.
Ter Stegen- 6/10
- There wasn’t much he could do with the goal from Leganés. Otherwise a decent game for the German.
Piqué – 8/10
- He started the move for the first goal with brilliant dribbling. He was also solid at the back.
- He was impressive in his comeback from injury, though he was caught ball watching in the goal Leganés scored.
Sergi Roberto- 6/10
- He put in a decent performance but didn’t add much in the attack.
- Bagged couple of assists with his typical cutbacks for Messi and Dembélé. A constant threat in attack though partly at fault for the Leganés goal.
- A solid performance with calmness personified. He seems to be getting better with every match.
- He had an impressive full La Liga debut. There was a lot of intensity and attacking intent.
- Picked up an unnecessary yellow, otherwise a typical Busquets performance.
- His killer instincts were vital in Barça’s second goal.
Dembélé – 9/10
- The best Barça player of the night. Every time he had the ball, he created something. Sad to see him limp off with an injury.
Coutinho – 4/10
- His inconsistency continues. It was probably one of his worst performances. He lost the ball multiple times, misplaced passes and his shooting left a lot to be desired.
- A brilliant 30 min cameo. Created the second goal and scored the third. There isn’t anything that he cannot do.
- Barça lost the control in the midfield after he came in. He had a great chance to finish off the game as his thunderbolt missed the post narrowly.
- He was on the pitch only for the last 20 minutes, didn’t contribute much in the attack.