A response is in order from Catalan giants Barcelona as they seek to recuperate from the devastating 4-0 midweek loss to Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League.
After a horror Valentine’s date with Paris St Germain in the Champions League, Barcelona resume their league duties as they entertain CD Leganes at the Camp Nou on Sunday.
It’s been three days since the devastating evening at the Parc Des Princes but the after effects of the shock result are yet to wear away for all those witness to the incredible encounter.
And when that’s the case with those watching, one can only imagine what must be going on in the minds of the players and staff of Barcelona going into Sunday’s game.
Regardless of the kind of opposition, the upcoming gameweeks will be a real test of Barcelona’s character and mental strength and they have to pass with flying colours if they’re to emerge with anything tangible this campaign.
Leganes, on the other hand, will do best to avoid a thrashing at the hands of Barcelona as they sit just two points above the relegation zone.
Team News and Tactics
It’s back to the drawing board for Luis Enrique after their Champions League debacle and the boss must utilize the games hence-forth to hatch a tactic that can help them overcome PSG’s midfield engine.
Even if they were afforded a transfer window between now and their second-leg tie at the Camp Nou two weeks from now, it’s hard to see them purchase players in the centre of the park quite as industrious as PSG’s midfield trio.
The midfield collapsed like a pack of cards as they succumbed to the relentless pressure from Adrien Rabiot, Blaise Matuidi and Marco Verratti on numerous occasions.
The game more than anything shed a bright shining light on Andre Gomes’ weakness in the centre of the park that will lead Enrique to afford more opportunities to Denis Suarez who has definitely been more impressive than his Portuguese counter-part in terms of creating chances and keeping possession.
Enrique’s counter-attacking style of football as opposed to the possession-based play that has been the norm at the club for years has had many fans and press alike criticize the boss for his tactics.
Moreover, his apparent over-reliance on the brilliance of the MSN and a “lack of a plan B” has done little to reduce the chorus of voices calling for his sacking.
Sunday may not do much to dent that opinion but a response against PSG at the Camp Nou will and the preparation for that begins at Leganes.
Sergio Busquets is suspended from the tie after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season last week against Alaves. Aleix Vidal is ruled out due to an injury he suffered during the victory against Eibar.
Javier Mascherano is also set to be out, while Arda Turan is doubtful after missing the trip to Paris. However, Neymar is fit again following a knock on Tuesday and the Brazilian trained normally in Friday’s session to give Luis Enrique a boost ahead of the game on Sunday.
Not only will the Catalans look to bounce back from the result against PSG, but they’ll also look to keep the pressure on Real Madrid who lead by a solitary point, albeit with two games in hand.
Possible Starting XI (4-3-3) : Ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Iniesta, Rakitic, D.Suarez, Messi, Suarez, Neymar.
There is no sugar-coating Leganes’ troubles at the moment as they hover dangerously above the relegation zone. The Madrid-based club is yet to win a league game since November and Barcelona are among the last teams they’d want to be facing given their current plight.
As though that wasn’t trouble enough, Leganes’ lengthy injury list adds further headache to boss Asier Garitano. However, he looked at things from a different perspective.
The boss on Friday stated that Barcelona’s thumping loss at the hands of PSG bodes well for his side citing Barcelona’s ‘state of mind’. “The 4-0 suffered against PSG is the best [thing] for Leganes. Surely their state of mind isn’t great. And that, to play against us, is not the best,” he said.
While Garitano does make a valid argument about the mental state of the Blaugrana players, he’d do well to avoid under-estimating the Catalan giants’ ability to bounce back.
The Pepineros received a sound thrashing at the hands of Sunday’s opponents when they last met in September with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar and Rafinha combining to effect a 5-1 demolition.
His side looks weaker at the moment from the squad that lined up that day in the absence of players like Robert Ibanez, Mamadou Kone, Jon Ander Serantes, David Timor and Ruben Perez, all of whom have been ruled out due to injury.
The centre-back pairing of Pablo Insua and Dimitris Siovas will have a task on their hands trying to keep the MSN at bay. The midfielders will take a leaf out of PSG’s books as they look to break down Barcelona and constantly apply pressure in a bid to win the ball back.
Possible Starting XI (4-2-3-1) : Herrerin; Diaz, Siovas, Insua, Rico; Martin, Moran; El Zhar, Bueno, Szymanovski, Guerrero.
- Barcelona won 5-1 in the very first meeting between the two sides in La Liga, the first game of this season in which the three MSN members scored.
- Leganes will play at Camp Nou for the first time. Only two sides have won their very first La Liga game there: Malaga in 1999 (2-1) and Villarreal in 1998 (3-1).
- Lionel Messi has scored against 33 out of the 35 sides he has faced in La Liga at Camp Nou. Only Xerez and Hercules managed to shut the Argentine out.
- Neymar is the player with the highest average of chances created per game (3.06 per game), most dribbles completed (five per game) and most touches in the opposition box (8.33 per game) in La Liga this season.
Player to watch out for
FC Barcelona: Lionel Messi
The Argentinean scored a brace and set-up Luis Suarez’s goal on the night to guide Barcelona to a comfortable 5-1 victory at the Estadio Municipal De Butarque back in September. And after being blanked out of the equation against PSG on Tuesday, Messi will be keen to prove a point with yet another key performance on Sunday, as though he really needs to prove a point anymore.
FC Barcelona 4-0 CD Leganes
Expect a Barcelona side firing in from all cylinders on Sunday especially after all the backlash they have received in the past week along with their manager for their abysmal performance in Paris. Leganes have 7 losses and 5 draws to their name since they last won in La Liga and there are little signs of that changing on Sunday, even if you factor in Barcelona’s ‘state of mind’.