Today marked the return of football in the Camp Nou as Barcelona hosted Leganés. Fresh off of a 4-0 win, Setien sent out the following starting eleven; Ter Stegen, Firpo, Lenglet, Pique, Roberto, Busquets, Arthur, Rakitic, Fati, Greizmann and Messi. Barcelona looked to extend their lead atop the table and that they did. But it was not all too convincing at the start.
Leganés had early chances but failed to take advantage. As they had three shots on target compared to only one by Barcelona in the first twenty minutes of the match. If it was not for Lenglet clearing the ball off of the line, Barcelona would have been down early. This was the turning point in the match and Barcelona stepped it up after the mishap. In the 42nd minute, Barcelona youngster Ansu Fati combined well with Firpo. That produced the first goal of the match. As he kept his composure and placed the ball past the Leganés keeper into the bottom right corner. Barcelona did not stop there and continued to apply pressure throughout the rest of the first half.
In the second half we saw some early changes. Luis Suarez replaced Fati, Semedo replaced Roberto and Vidal replaced Busquets. Barcelona continued to apply pressure and produced a fine piece of play. Messi played Semedo through the back line, allowing him to square it to Greizmann. The Frenchman slid the ball into the net. Unfortunately the goal was ruled as offside and was brought back. Shortly after, Messi created a bit of his magic as he nutmegged a defender, dribbled past another, squared the ball and then was brought down in the box for a penalty which he converted to make it 2-0 for Barcelona. The match ended with another Barcelona win, but more importantly another clean sheet. This is Setien’s fifth clean sheet since he has taken over the senior squad.
There was a lot to take away from this match, both good and bad. To start off, the defense once again was pressured into making simple mistakes that could have cost Barcelona against a better team. The chemistry is not there and during the next brutal stretch of matches, the focus needs to be 100% on the back line. With that being said, Firpo had a fine match as he and Fati linked well when playing from the back.
Some topics after the game
The most noticeable negative was Greizmann’s performance. Time and time again he is bailed out of his bad performances due to his superior ability to drop back and defend, but that is not why he was brought to the club. He was brought to Barcelona to be a difference maker and assist Messi with carrying the team. He has failed so far, even with his 14 goals this season. An absolutely terrible performance from the Frenchman today and it was shocking to not see him pulled off of the pitch. On the bright side, Fati continues to improve and will be crucial in the final stretch of the season.
Riqui Puig also saw some playing time today and took advantage with a fine display off of the bench. He was unlucky to not see himself on the scoresheet both of his shots were saved, but nonetheless an exciting performance from the La Masia graduate. Last but not least, Messi.
He may have started off slow, but put together another dazzling 90 minutes of play and looks hungry for more football. Watching him drop back and collect the ball and go on his magical runs was refreshing to see after nearly three months of no football and he also netted his 699th career goal. He will be looking for his 700th this Friday as Barcelona travel to Sevilla.