Barcelona will be aiming to continue their winning run in La Liga when they welcome Leganes to Camp Nou on Sunday night.
Matchday 20 of the 2018-19 La Liga season will continue on Sunday, with the champions on show. Barcelona will be playing hosts to one of the two sides that have beaten them this season, Leganes, hoping to continue their fine winning run in La Liga, which currently stands at six games.
Barcelona have been on a fine run of form lately, with the first leg loss to Levante in the Copa del Rey last week only being a minor blip in the last two months. In particular, the Blaugrana‘s form in La Liga has been quite scintillating, with Atletico Madrid the last side to deny them all three points. Additionally, the champions will also be buoyed by their 3-0 win over Levante in the cup.
Leganes, on the other hand, have won just one of their last five games in the league, although they seem to be starting to rediscover some form lately. Mauricio Pellegrino’s men have won each of their last two games, and their 1-0 win over Real Madrid on Wednesday, in particular, will give them a big confidence boost, even though they ended up being eliminated from Copa del Rey.
The reverse fixture, played at Estadio Municipal de Butarque in September last year, had ended in a shock come-from-behind 2-1 win for Leganes. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the encounter.
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Ernesto Valverde does not have any pressing concern hampering his preparations ahead of the visit of Leganes. On Sunday, the Barcelona boss is likely to be without four first-team players, although only two of them are on the treatment table.
Samuel Umtiti and Rafinha are recovering from their respective long-term knee complaints, and will not be available for the foreseeable future. Thomas Vermaelen and Sergi Samper are unlikely to feature either, but the duo have resumed training, and should return to the fold soon.
The absence of Umtiti does not hurt, especially with Jeison Murillo starting to settle in at Camp Nou. On Sunday, however, Clement Lenglet should resume his usual central defensive partnership with Gerard Pique after the Barcelona veteran was rested for the visit of Levante.
The other change in the Barcelona back four should see Sergi Roberto replace Nelson Semedo at right-back, with Jordi Alba set to keep his place on the opposite flank. Marc-Andre ter Stegen should return as well, after Jasper Cillessen took up his customary place in goal against Levante.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets is likely to start after he was rested in the cup tie. Ivan Rakitic should thus, reprise his usual role as the box-to-box midfielder, with Busquets manning the holding midfield slot. Arthur is likely to complete the midfield unit, with Arturo Vidal the unlucky man making way.
In attack, Philippe Coutinho should miss out, especially with Ousmane Dembele being in such fine form. Meanwhile, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are certain starters, with the latter returning to the starting lineup.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Roberto, Pique, Lenglet, Alba; Rakitic, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Dembele
Mauricio Pellegrino has plenty of problems on his hands before he takes his squad to Barcelona. On Sunday, the Leganes manager will be without as many as five first-team players due to either injuries or suspension.
Those who will definitely miss out for the visitors are Alexander Szymanowski (hamstring), Michael Santos (hip) and Guido Carrillo (ankle), while Unai Bustinza is suspended for accumulation of yellow cards. Ezequiel Munoz, meanwhile, is a major doubt, even though he has returned to training after recovering from a groin injury.
The absence of Bustinza and Munoz means Pellegrino has just three recognised centre-backs to start against Barcelona, those being Dimitrios Siovas, Kenneth Omeruo and Rodrigo Tarin. The back five should be completed by Juanfran and Jonathan Silva, with the full-backs also tasked with primarily providing the width in the final third.
The midfielders will mostly sit narrow, trying to negate the influence of Barcelona’s midfielders, with Ruben Perez hoping to direct traffic. Oscar Rodriguez will be the more creative of the trio, with Gerard Gumbau being the workhorse hoping to make an impact on both ends of the pitch.
Up ahead in attack, Carrillo’s absence could have been felt dearly. But, with Martin Braithwaite beginning his Leganes career with a bang by scoring the winner against Real Madrid, Pellegrino is unlikely to fret much, with the Danish striker being partnered by Youssef En-Nesyri.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Cuellar; Juanfran, Tarin, Omeruo, Siovas, Silva; Rodriguez, Perez, Gumbau; En-Nesyri, Braithwaite
- Barcelona have been victorious in four of their five meetings with Leganes in La Liga, scoring in all five of those matches and netting 14 goals in total.
- Leganes though, are one of only two sides that have beaten Barcelona in the league this season, with Los Pepineros being the victors the last time the two sides locked horns, coming from behind to beat the La Liga champions 2-1.
- Leganes have avoided defeat in just two of their seven visits to Catalonia in the Spanish top flight, failing to score in four of those matches against Barcelona, Espanyol and Girona.
- The two sides are on the opposite end of spectrum as far as form is concerned, with Barcelona winning each of their last six games in the league, while Leganes have managed to grab all three points in just one game during the same period.
- Mauricio Pellegrino is the only current manager in La Liga to have beaten Barcelona more than once in the Spanish top flight.
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Braithwaite could not have asked for a better start to his spell at Leganes, upon completing his loan move from Middlesbrough. Having scored the winner against Real Madrid always lifts anyone’s confidence, no matter how much Los Blancos are stuttering.
The 27-year-old will thus, approach the match against Barcelona brimming with self belief, which could prove to be dangerous for the Blaugrana, who are known to be fragile at the back. Either way, Braithwaite will certainly need to be in top form, if Leganes are to take anything from the game.
Barcelona 3-1 Leganes
Leganes might be coming into the match on the back of a stunning win over Real Madrid, that ultimately ended up being futile in their cup run. But, Barcelona are a completely different beast at the present moment, especially when it comes to La Liga.
The defending champions have only known winning over the last two months, whatever their way of getting to the result might have been. And, with the trio of Luis Suarez, Lionel Messi and Ousmane Dembele being in such fine form, it is unlikely to look past Barcelona for this one.
Leganes though, should get on the score sheet, with Ernesto Valverde’s men not really known for their forte at the back. The Hard Tackle predicts a comfortable result for the hosts – a 3-1 win to reopen their five-point lead atop the La Liga table following Atletico Madrid’s 3-0 win over Huesca.