Barcelona stretched their unbeaten run to seventeen on Saturday as they eased to a 3-0 win over Leganes at Estadio Municipal de Butarque.
While the visitors were not at their fluent best for large parts of the match, they were clinical enough to grab three goals and earn maximum points for the tenth time in La Liga this season. They made a rather lacklustre start, struggling to create a lot of opening in the first half an hour.
The deadlock was finally broken just before the half-hour mark when Luis Suarez showed his poaching abilities, slotting the ball into the back of the net from close range after Ivan Cuellar could only parry Paco Alcacer’s shot towards him.
Leganes did not just sit back, proving that they have come a long way since last season, as they constantly looked for the equaliser, even coming close through captain Alexander Szymanowski, only to be denied by Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
With the hosts failing to be clinical enough, Barcelona showed how to make a difference, when at the hour mark Suarez doubled his and his side’s advantage. This time Cuellar firmly blocked Alcacer’s shot, but Suarez was aware enough to score past him, through a fantastic acrobatic effort.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 18, 2017
Thereafter, Barcelona came close to scoring a couple more times before finally scoring their third through the in-form Paulinho, who converted from Lionel Messi’s flicked past to round off the win, and take his side seven clear atop La Liga. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Ernesto Valverde’s men.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen: 8/10
It was yet another day when ter Stegen was absolutely brilliant between the sticks, and he seems to have made a habit of it. The German was alert to any and every threat towards his goal, making a number of fine saves to thwart a purposeful Leganes attack.
The most impressive among these saves came from Alexander Szymanowski’s curling effort that kept his side’s lead intact. All in all, it was another solid outing for the shot stopper that ended with him earning another well deserved clean sheet.
Nelson Semedo: 5.5/10
The Portuguese had made a solid start to life as a Barcelona player, with a string of good performances to kickstart his stint at Camp Nou. But, of late, Semedo has been uncharacteristically subdued, and Saturday was another such outing.
The player was often wasteful in possession, and looked off pace defensively as well, with Szymanowski giving him a hard time before he was eventually taken off in the early stages of the second half. Needs to pull his socks up, with Gerard Pique not looking convincing enough besides him either.
Gerard Pique: 6/10
Talking of Pique, it was a slightly improved performance by the veteran defender. But, he still didn’t look the part entirely on the day, often having his hands full at the heart of defence.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) November 18, 2017
The worst part about his outing though, was his unnecessary booking – the fifth that he has incurred this season – has left Ernesto Valverde severely short of central defensive option for next week’s game against Valencia, with Javier Mascherano sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Samuel Umtiti: 7/10
While Pique continues to flatter to deceive, Umtiti is only going from strength to strength. On one of his busier days at the back for Barcelona this season, the Frenchman was at his reliable best, stopping several counterattacking plays with his aggressive style.
His form is a huge positive for the Catalans, at a time when they aren’t exactly playing at their best, yet getting the desired results.
Jordi Alba: 7/10
Alba had little to do defensively in the first half, although he was sub-par with his contributions in the final third. He was much improved in the second half, constantly bombarding up the left flank to add numbers in attack and create opportunities for his teammates up front.
Ivan Rakitic: 6/10
In context of the kind of season he has had so far, Rakitic’s performance on Saturday was a slight improvement. But, he still has a long way to go to justify his continued selection ahead of the in-form Paulinho.
On a positive note, his work rate and tenacity helped Barcelona dominate the proceedings in midfield against a side that looked up to the task of springing a surprise. An improvement going forward will help the Blaugrana immensely, and the Croat would be hoping to up his game in the weeks to come.
Sergio Busquets: 7/10
??Busquets plays game number 450 for Barça
1️⃣ Xavi 767
2️⃣ Iniesta 644
3️⃣ Messi 601
4️⃣ Puyol 593
5️⃣ Migueli 549
6️⃣ Valdés 535
7️⃣ SERGIO 450
7️⃣ Rexach 450
? Congrats, Sergio!? pic.twitter.com/WlO4R3trPH
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) November 18, 2017
Making his 450th appearance for Barcelona, Busquets was typically solid and dogged in front of the back four. His deep lying playmaking abilities came to the fore as well as the Spaniard helped set up the first goal by chipping a defence splitting pass towards Paco Alcacer, before Luis Suarez found the back of the net.
Andres Iniesta: 6/10
An underwhelming performance by the Barcelona captain, who looked in need of a rest after playing twice for Spain in the international break. Iniesta was lethargic all throughout the match, and that seemed to have affected his decision making as well.
In hindsight, a rest would have done him a world of good, considering Barcelona have a crucial Champions League game against Juventus only three days later.
Paco Alcacer: 8/10
In what was another example of how goals work wonders for the confidence of attacking player, Paco Alcacer looked buoyant, having come into the match on the back of a brace against Sevilla. The Spaniard was lively all through the match and played a key role in each of Suarez’s goals.
On top of that, he linked up brilliantly, not just with Suarez but Lionel Messi and his understanding with his partners up front bodes well for Barcelona.
Lionel Messi: 6/10
A rare poor outing for the Barcelona talisman, going by his other worldly standards. Messi was uncharacteristically quiet for large parts of the match, with the Leganes defender neutralising his threat extremely well. But, the Argentine still had a part to play in the match as he was heavily involved in the last two goals.
Luis Suarez: 8/10
— LaLiga (@LaLigaEN) November 19, 2017
Up until Saturday’s visit to Madrid, Luis Suarez had looked a pale shadow of his domineering best, and fans were rightly calling for him to be dropped. But, the Uruguayan had plans to make things against Leganes, looking hungry, and ultimately clinical to make the difference in the game.
In the process, he ended his joint-longest goalscoring drought in Barcelona colours, showing signs of coming back into some form. The fortnight-long break seems to have done him a world of good, with Suarez showing no signs of the fitness troubles that seemed to have been pegging him back.
Aleix Vidal: 6/10
Replacing Semedo for the last half hour or so, Vidal was solid at the back, although he missed a glorious opportunity to add to his side’s advantage.
The hordes of people who questioned his signing would now be biting their tongues as Paulinho scored his fourth goal of the season. In the right place at the right time, the Brazilian did just enough to round of the win for his side.
Denis Suarez: N/A
On for the last ten minutes, the young Spaniard helped see off the game.