Barcelona's unbeaten run continues thanks to a thrilling win against CD Leganes in Madrid.
Barcelona moved seven points clear of the chasing pack in a thrilling win against CD Leganes in Madrid. The Catalan side faced enthusiastic opposition in Leganes, whose performances disguised the fact that the club is only playing its second ever season in the Spanish top division.
The first half started as an end-to-end game, with Barca surprisingly not dominating the possession in the manner they have been known for.
Barcelona returned to their old 4-3-3 formation, with Paco Alcacer shifting up to the left forward position. The midfield three, made up of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta, remained quite compact.
Barcelona’s full-backs played extremely high, and should’ve made the first breakthrough together with Semedo’s pass to Alba setting up Suarez for a tap in.
It would’ve been a well-worked goal had Alba not been ruled out for offside, when he was actually in line with the Leganes back line. However, Barcelona broke through soon after with a great left foot shot from Luis Suarez, which nestled in the bottom right corner.
Whilst Barcelona always had threatening presence when in possession, especially with Semedo at right back, Leganes also had their chances. One particular Alexander Szymanowski effort produced a decent reflex save from Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
Nordin Amarabat, on loan from Watford, looked the most dangerous for Leganes as he headed up the attack for the hosts. Even after Suarez’s goal, Leganes did not let up their attack and continued to be a nuisance for the Barcelona defence.
They could’ve pulled a goal back after a great cross from Szymanowski was just too long, with ter Stegen rooted to the spot as it made its way to the back post.
But as the first half went on, Barcelona held onto possession a lot tighter, whilst Leganes made their use of the ball more productive, making six shots to Barcelona’s one.
The second half very much improved in every aspect. Leganes became even more hungry to grab a goal, with ter Stegen being peppered with shots, albeit most of them easy saves.
Whilst the home side didn’t let up their pressure, it left them open to getting caught up in the moment, with many sloppy fouls being given away, especially in the middle of the park.
Just before the hour mark, Luis Suarez made it 2-0 with a brilliant acrobatic volley following a rebound.
Paco Alcacer’s shot rebounded off the woodwork and came towards Suarez at chest height, with the Uruguayan shifting his body to hit it first time. The shot was actually going straight towards the goalkeeper, but a huge deflection took it into the net.
One player that shone for Ernesto Valverde's side was Paulinho, whose great attacking display in midfield justified the praise he has been receiving since his surprise transfer this summer.
He capped his performances with a deft finish into the centre of the goal to confirm all three points for Barça.
Paulinho now with same number of La Liga goals this season (4) as Madrid's BBC— Kieran Canning (@KieranCanning) November 18, 2017
As the last half 20 minutes came to pass, it was obvious that Barcelona’s willingness to attack was diminishing, with more conservative play and only taking chances when they were handed on a plate.
As Barca’s attack diminished, so did Leganes’ confidence, as flashes of what they had shown in the first half became few and far between.
They still retained their excitement, with Diego Rico’s effort from over 35 yards out being saved in the bottom left hand corner.
Whilst Barcelona deserved the victory, Leganes’ effort showed that they deserve to sit in a respectable ninth place in La Liga, having 17 shots with only 32% possession.
The win for Barca gives them a greater edge over second placed Valencia, as well as an 11-point advantage over Atletico and Real Madrid.
The win will also give them confidence going into their Champions League clash with Juventus on Wednesday, ahead of a top two match away to Valencia next Sunday.