Barcelona 3-1 Leganés live online: LaLiga, matchday 20
Goals from Dembélé, Suárez and Messi sealed the three points at the Camp Nou but Valverde has much to ponder.
Barcelona vs Leganés: match report
Three points. Three goals. Dembélé and Aleña impressed again. There was much for Ernesto Valverde to be happy about after Barça's 3-1 win over Leganés. Everything did not go to plan, however, in what was a far from convincing night's work for LaLiga's pace setters.
The tempo of the first half was set, unsurprisingly by the home side. Without creating many clear cut chances, the lads in blaugrana had well over two-thirds of the possession and tried to work their way through a hard-working, defensively-minded opponent. In the absence of Lionel Messi - who had been rested to the bench - much of the onus was on Coutinho and Dembélé to make things happen in the final third. The Frenchman's frightening pace had the blue and white shirts gathering in numbers, crowding him out more than cleanly tackling. It worked most of time.
As the half entered into its final 15 minutes, the defence would be unlocked. The French winger ran across the edge of the Leganés box before heading into the danger area. By then he'd already laid off the ball, and when Alba then played it back across he sorted out his body to direct the ball perfectly in-off the far post. A lovely goal, and one that took them into the break ahead and suggested this side could live without their number 10.
The second half saw an immediate spark of life from the visitors and they were rewarded, still against the general run of play, with a neatly worked goal for loanee, Martin Braithwaite. With half an hour remaining, Valverde wasted no time: bring on the saviour. And so he proved to be, although it also coincided with Dembélé being taken off injured and possibly out of action.
Creating a shooting chance for himself that brought out an excellent save from Cuellar allowed Suárez to nip in a touch home the rebound. By the letter of the law many would argue that he endangered the goalkeeper and it should have been chalked off, but it stood. Messi then made sure of the result, finishing off another cutback from Jordi Alba, something we've seen countless times over the years. And that was that.
Positives there were, and concerns there were too. Depending on the tint of your spectacles, you'll choose which to focus on more.
Barcelona vs Leganés: minute-by-minute
Barcelona vs Leganés: match preview
With important wins for both Atlético and Real Madrid (who sit second and third in the table respectively) this weekend, LaLiga Santander leaders Barcelona will be conscious that any slip up on their behalf could change the narrative somewhat. With tonight's game in hand on their closest rivals, they have the opportunity to extend the gap at the top to five points, but will know that it was Leganés who ran out the victors in the early meeting of these sides in Butarque.
Barcelona team news
Ernesto Valverde will be more than aware that his side are not firing on all cylinders week in, week out, and cannot take any game lightly. In saying that, a win in front of their home fans tonight will see a seventh consecutive league victory, on the back of an impressive qualification into the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey. It will be interesting to see if Philippe Coutinho gets hte nod over normally-preferred Ousmane Dembele to partner Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi up front. With no new injuries to worry about, the manager will have his pick ahead of Sevilla on Wednesday.
Leganés team news
With several players out injured or doubtful for tonight, Mauricio Pellegrino will have to turn to some of his fringe members. Martin Braithwaite will likely take the place of Guido Carrillo in attack, while Gerard Gumbau may come in for Ruben Perez if he is unable to line-up. Fighting for a comfortable mid-table spot, Leganés will aim to make things difficult for their illustrious hosts, and having suffered only two losses in their last 13 games, will come with some confidence.