Barcelona beat Leganes by 2 goals to 1 to continue to keep the pressure on league leaders Real Madrid
The Catalans were coming off the back of a 4-0 thrashing in the UEFA Champions League to French side Paris Saint-Germain and Luis Enrique had to make sure his side’s confidence did not take another hit against Leganes.
The Blaugranes got off to the best start possible as Lionel Messi opened the scoring within 4 minutes after some fine play between Neymar and Luis Suarez, who played a lovely ball in for Messi to finish with ease. Some sloppy play from Sergi Roberto then gifted Leganes with an equaliser through Unai Lopez.
Some great play from Neymar then earned Barcelona a penalty and Lionel Messi slammed it home perfectly to give Barcelona the win. We take a look at some of the key talking points from the game.
Where is Barcelona’s identity?
The game was one for the record books but not in a way that Barcelona fans would have been pleased about. For the first time in the club’s 118-year history, only one Spanish player started the game in La Liga.
With Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Andres Iniesta rested, Sergi Roberto was the only Spanish player on the pitch and considering Barcelona have always been huge contributors to the Spanish national side, this was a strange sight.
While there is nothing wrong with playing players from foreign countries, Barcelona have prided themselves on bringing through young, Spanish talent over the years but it is clear that they are struggling to do so currently.
Over-reliance on MSN is worrying
Barcelona’s midfield featured Andre Gomes, Rafinha and Ivan Rakitic in the starting lineup and one has only to look at those players to see that it is a far cry from the dominant midfield Barcelona have played over the last few years.
It showed on the pitch, as the Catalans found it very hard to keep a hold of the ball in midfield and looked out of ideas when the ball was in the centre of the pitch. It didn’t help that Andre Gomes and Ivan Rakitic had poor games either.
The problem with this side is that when they are not at full strength, they are too reliant on Messi, Neymar and Suarez to pull out moments of magic to rescue them. While it is hard to think of 3 better players in the world to do that, this has cost them in the past.
Enrique’s summer signings have been questioned several times this season and the over-reliance on MSN is just making people ask those questions louder. Barcelona must find a way to ease the pressure on the front three or they will continue to drop points this season.
Luis Enrique under increasing pressure
Despite the win, this was not a performance Barcelona fans will be happy with. The Catalans were constantly under threat of not just drawing, but losing the game and had to rely on a penalty at the death to seal the win.
Luis Enrique has been under fire this season and after last week’s humiliation in Paris, the unrest at the Camp Nou is getting more and more obvious. Enrique’s name was chanted by one section of the fans after Messi scored the opening goal but they were quickly drowned out by whistling from the rest of the Camp Nou.
This continued in the second half and the whistling only grew louder after Barcelona conceded a soft equaliser. It is also becoming obvious that fans are unhappy with this team as the attendance of 63,378 was the lowest this season at the Camp Nou.
Many feel that Enrique is massively underachieving this season given the talent he has at his disposal and the fans are also bewildered by some of the signings the Spaniard made in the summer. Enrique himself has been tetchy in some press conferences and looks like he is feeling the pressure.
The Asturian manager is out of contract at the end of the summer and while Barcelona’s official stance is that they want him to stay, it looks increasingly likely that this season will be his last at the Camp Nou.
Neymar the bright spark again
Neymar’s fine run for Barcelona continued against Leganes and he continues to be one of the Blaugrana’s lights despite the struggles they have faced this season. The Brazilian was their best player against Paris Saint-Germain and made a case for that plaudit once more last night.
It was his pass to Luis Suarez that cut open the Leganes defense and led to Barcelona’s opening goal, and it was his silky skills that earned Barcelona a penalty which Lionel Messi duly slotted away to gift Barcelona a victory.
He also completed the game with a 92% pass success rate, completed a whopping 7 successful dribbles – the highest of any player on the pitch with Lionel Messi not even coming close in 2nd with 4 dribbles – made 1 key pass and had 2 shots on target according to WhoScored.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen impresses once more
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen was the only other Barcelona player who could come out of the defeat in France with any credit and he showed his quality once more against Leganes last night with a string of fine saves to keep the visitors at bay.
While he was caught off guard for Leganes’ equaliser and could perhaps have done better, the German international was imperious throughout the match and was one of the main reasons Barcelona did not lose the game.
Nabil El Zhar was on fire last night and Ter Stegen made a fine double save to deny the Leganes midfielder early in the first half, as the defence of Sergi Roberto, Samuel Umtiti, Jeremy Mathieu and Lucas Digne struggled to contend with the Leganes players.
He also made a string of saves in the second half to keep Leganes at bay and he is quickly becoming a hugely important player for Barcelona, which only highlights their struggles. In all, the German made a total of 5 saves and once again comes out of the match as one of the stand-out players.