Barcelona will be aiming to get back to winning ways when they pay Leganes a visit at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on Wednesday night
La Liga has moved into Matchday 6 of the 2018-19 season, just a couple of days after the previous round of fixtures ended. On the outskirts of the Spanish capital, it will be top versus bottom as a struggling CD Leganes side plays hosts to league leaders Barcelona at Estadio Municipal de Butarque on Wednesday.
Leganes are in a disarray in the initial stages of the season, having failed to record a single win after the first five games of the season. Manager Mauricio Pellegrino has struggled to have the desired result upon being appointed as the manager this past summer, and the early signs point towards a relegation battle.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have largely been imperious thus far, with five wins from their first six games in all competitions this term. The only blemish came this past weekend, as Girona held Ernesto Valverde’s men to a 2-2 draw. But, the defending La Liga champions retain their place atop the table, although the title race has all the means to go right down the wire.
The corresponding fixture last season ended in a comfortable 3-0 win for Barcelona, with Luis Suarez netting a brace. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Mauricio Pellegrino has a few injury concerns to deal with ahead of the visit of Barcelona. On Wednesday, the Leganes boss could be without as many as four first-team players due to various fitness issues.
Jose Manuel Arnaiz (groin) and Alexander Szymanowski (hamstring) will definitely miss out when Barcelona pay Leganes a visit, with the duo likely to remain on the treatment table for at least another month. The availability of Ezequiel Munoz (groin) and Kenneth Omeruo (match fitness) is in doubt, though, and the two are likely to miss out on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Ivan Cuellar is set to be a busy man between the sticks for the hosts, who have already conceded 10 goals after their first five games. The back four will have to pull their weight, having faltered to a great extent thus far. With that in mind, Juanfran is likely to be pulled back into the right-back slot, with Allan Nyom making way.
Dimitrios Siovas and Unai Bustinza are nailed on as the central defensive pairing, but the left side of the Leganes defence throws up a few questions. Pellegrino will have to choose between Jonathan Silva and Raul Garcia, and the former should get the nod on Wednesday.
In midfield, Ruben Perez will be a vital cog in the anchor man role, looking to keep things organised and tight. Giving him company in the midfield pivot, should be Gerard Gumbau, who will not just contribute on the defensive front, but also in recycling the ball towards Eraso in the no. 10 role.
The key creator for Leganes is Nabil El Zhar, who will also be a threat with his prowess in front of goal. But, Diego Rolan and Guido Carrillo will have to elevate their performance levels if they are to help Leganes spring a surprise.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cuellar; Juanfran, Bustinza, Siovas, Silva; Gumbau, Perez; El Zhar, Eraso, Rola; Carrillo
Ernesto Valverde has no pressing injury concerns on his hands, with Sergi Samper the only player on the sidelines due to a long-term ankle injury. The only player unavailable for Barcelona on Wednesday will be Clement Lenglet, who will serve the first of his two-match ban after seeing red against Girona.
But, there is some good news in store for Valverde, with Malcom declared fit to play after completely recovering from his ankle injury. The Brazilian’s availability will help the Barcelona boss considerably, allowing him to rotate his players more effectively during a period when games will be coming thick and fast.
The summer signing might as well get a start straight away, with Ousmane Dembele looking a bit jaded last time out. With Malcom starting on the right, Valverde could end up shuffling his system and reverting to a 4-4-2. The game could also offer Denis Suarez a chance to make his first appearance this season.
In addition to Malcom and Denis, a few other changes could be in store, one of them being forced. With Lenglet suspended, Samuel Umtiti is likely to return to the starting lineup, with Gerard Pique being his partner at the heart of the Barcelona defence. On the right flank, Sergi Roberto should be reinstated to the side, with Nelson Semedo disappointing once again.
The other players returning to the side should be Ivan Rakitic and Philippe Coutinho, with Sergio Busquets being afforded a rare rest day. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a side that has one of the most porous defensive units in the league, while Luis Suarez should return among the goals as well.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; Malcom, Rakitic, Denis Suarez, Coutinho; Messi, Luis Suarez
- Barcelona are yet to drop a single point in four meetings in La Liga with Leganes. Last season, the Blaugrana found the back of the net six times against the capital outfit.
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 13 away games against Madrilenian teams in La Liga (W11, D2). Their last defeat was at Santiago Bernabéu against Real Madrid in October 2014 (3-1).
- Barcelona are the team with most different scorers in La Liga this season (seven).
- Lionel Messi has scored seven goals against Leganés in La Liga, more than any other other in the Spanish top-flight.
- Mauricio Pellegrino has lost three of his four games as manager against Barcelona (W1), including the last one – 3-1 in Spanish Copa del Rey final in May 2017.
Player to Watch
It has been a tough initiation as a Barcelona player for Malcom, who has only managed to play six minutes of first-team football after the first six games in all competitions. Now fully recovered from an ankle injury, the summer signing will be raring to go, and finally kick-start his Barcelona stint against Leganes.
Ousmane Dembele is a prime example of how a debut campaign can go spiralling downwards when injury troubles hit, and Malcom will also be eager to make a mark right from the get-go. And, Leganes present him with the perfect opportunity to get going.
CD Leganes 0-4 Barcelona
A David vs Goliath clash early in the season often springs up a surprise. But, Leganes do not look in any state to shock the league leaders and defending La Liga champions, Barcelona on Wednesday night, and not just because of their defensive struggles. Four goals in five games also points towards being poor in the final third.
Expect Barcelona to enjoy the bulk of the possession while taking aim at goal on a number of occasions. The likes of Malcom, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez should have a field day exploiting Leganes’s defensive deficiencies, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable 4-0 win for Ernesto Valverde & co.