Barcelona will be aiming to consolidate their place atop the La Liga table when they travel to Estadio Municipal de Butarque to take on Leganes on Saturday.
The final international break is over and La Liga football resumes with Matchday 14 of the 2019-20 season. Table toppers Barcelona will be in action first on Saturday, when they will be hoping to strengthen their place at the summit of the division, as they lock horns with Leganes at Estadio Municipal de Butarque.
Leganes have made a horrible start to the 2019-20 season, managing just one win from their first 13 league games of the campaign. The poor run of results cost Mauricio Pellegrino his job and left Los Pepineros rock-bottom in La Liga, with 17th placed Real Betis seven points ahead.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have put a troublesome start to the season behind them and are now perched at the top of the standings, although only two points separate them from fifth-placed Real Sociedad. But, away form has been the Achilles heel for the Blaugrana, who have managed just two wins from their six outings on the road this term.
Leganes prevailed in the corresponding fixture last season, as Barcelona squandered an early lead to lose 2-1 at the Butarque. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the La Liga encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Newly appointed Leganes boss Javier Aguirre has a raft of roster issues to contend with ahead of his first home game in-charge of Les Pepineros. Recio and Kevin Rodrigues are serving their respective one-match bans while Alexander Szymanowski is sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a cruciate ligament rupture.
Marc Navarro (thigh) and Ruben Perez (knee) are the remaining two absentees and will play no part against Barcelona. Meanwhile, Aguirre is expected to line his side up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, switching from the 5-4-1 that had recently been the norm for Leganes.
Ivan Cuellar is likely to retain his place in goal, but Kenneth Omeruo could be the casualty as a result of the shift in formation, with Dimitrios Siovas and captain Unai Bustinza forming the central defensive partnership. Jonathan Silva ought to return from suspension, starting on the left side of the Leganes defence, with Roberto Rosales being deployed on the opposite flank.
Up ahead in midfield, in the absence of Perez and Recio, Roque Mesa and Christian Rivera pick themselves in the double pivot, with Real Madrid loanee Oscar Rodriguez being a shoo-in to start in an advanced midfield role.
Aitor Ruibal is likely to return to the starting lineup and will be deployed on the right flank, with Jose Manuel Arnaiz a certain starter on the left. Martin Braithwaite will lead the line for Leganes, looking to exploit the weaknesses in the Barcelona defence.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): Cuellar; Rosales, Bustinza, Siovas, Silva; Rivera, Mesa; Ruibal, Rodriguez, Arnaiz; Braithwaite
Like his counterpart, Ernesto Valverde has his fair share of problems on the team news front as well. Against Leganes on Saturday, the Barcelona boss could be without as many four first-team players, with the full-back areas posing a major concern.
Nelson Semedo (calf) and Jordi Alba (hamstring) are on the treatment table, while Sergi Roberto is suspended following the win over Celta Vigo. As a result, Valverde will be forced to fall back on Moussa Wague to be his right-back, with Junior Firpo now an automatic pick on the left flank.
Fortunately for the Barcelona manager, there are no issues whatsoever at the heart of the defence, with Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet expected to partner up centrally. Marc-Andre ter Stegen is a certain starter in goal.
Up ahead in midfield, Ivan Rakitic (Achilles) could be available after training with the squad. But, the Croat is unlikely to make the starting lineup. Sergio Busquets should sit at the base of the three-man midfield, with Frenkie de Jong and Arthur providing the creative impetus from the middle of the park.
The three-pronged attack ought to feature Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann, with Ousmane Dembele providing the backup from the bench.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Wague, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann
- Leganes have only managed to prevail against Barcelona once in six meetings (L5), although the solitary win came in the corresponding fixture last season.
- Barcelona have failed to win four of their six games on the road this season, winning just two of those fixture (D1 L3).
- Leganes have won one game after the first 13 matchdays this season (D3 L9), although that success did come at home.
- Barcelona have a strong record post the international break under the tutelage of Ernesto Valverde, having not been beaten even once in 10 such fixtures (W7 D3).
- Javier Aguirre has only managed one win in 21 matches in-charge against Barcelona, with four other games ending in a draw (L15).
Player to Watch
Ahead of the season, Ernesto Valverde had proclaimed that Moussa Wague would start to be inculcated in the first-team setup this season. But, three months into the season and Wague is still waiting for his first senior appearance of the season.
However, with Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto missing out on the trip to face Leganes, Wague is expected to start. This gives the young Senegalese defender a chance to make an impression on the Barcelona manager and a solid performance could help him carve out a place for himself in the squad.
Leganes 1-3 Barcelona
Barcelona have been uncharacteristically poor on the road this season and their poor record gives struggling Leganes some hope heading into the Matchday 14 clash. Teams plagued with inconsistency usually tend to raise their levels under new management and Leganes should start strong.
However, the hosts have their fair share of problems at the back and the game could end up in a comfortable outing for Barcelona as it progresses. The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Ernesto Valverde & co. in a result that helps them keep hold of their place atop the La Liga table.