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Leganes and the danger they pose Barcelona

The strugglers have performed surprisingly well against top sides this season

Leganes v Real Madrid- Copa del Rey Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Fresh from a 1-0 triumph over Real Madrid in the second leg of their Copa del Rey clash, this is not the first time that CD Leganes have picked up points against one of La Liga’s stronger sides. They ended 2018 with a 1-1 draw against Sevilla, also picking up draws against Atletico Madrid, Getafe and Valencia along the way. Their undisputed highlight of the season to date was their astonishing 2-1 win over the Blaugranes at the Estadio Municipal de Butarquel, with their surprise 1-0 victory over the high-flying Alaves also lingering in supporters’ minds.

While only 14th on the table, their five wins, seven draws and seven losses serve as proof of their volatility, and show that they can just as easily cause an upset as they can suffer an unexpected loss, as is what happened against Eibar early on in the season. The question on everybody’s minds is, how exactly has this weaker side managed to exceed expectations against top opposition?

Firstly, attention should be focused on their defensive statistics. Having only conceded 21 goals, Leganes have the seventh best defensive record in La Liga this season. Even more impressive is the fact that they have only conceded one more goal than title contenders Barcelona and Sevilla.

Their recent defensive form has earned them four clean sheets in the last eight matches, during which they have managed to score eight goals while only conceding five. These statistics show that, despite not performing well overall in front of goal this season, they have certainly improved their abilities up front in recent matches.

Leganes v Real Madrid- Copa del Rey Round of 16: Second Leg Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Their improvement on the attack may be of some concern to Barca, as although the Blaugranes have remedied their issues at the back, Leganes’ attackers are vigorously resilient and could cause the Barca back four some headaches.

In their 1-0 win over Real, Leganes managed a massive 21 shots against Madrid’s 12, despite possession being 50-50 on the night. They took more shots against Sevilla in their La Liga fixture, even with having less possession, and almost matched Atletico’s total number of shots in their league fixture despite Atletico dominating proceedings. Even against a favoured Getafe side, Leganes remained in control throughout the match, and amassed more ball possession as well as shots.

This is a side who is not afraid to take risks, and will do their utmost to pressurise their opponents from the first whistle, no matter where on the league table they lie. While this risky approach has failed on occasion, it has also proven moderately successful in numerous matches. Leganes were able to find the net after a mere five minutes against Sevilla, and it took a late stoppage time equaliser for Sevilla to rescue a point. In their last match against Real Madrid, constant first-half pressure resulted in a 30th minute goal by Martin Braithwaite, which proved to be the winner. Let’s also not forget their first against Barca this season, when they came out swinging after the half-time interval, netting successively in the 52nd and 53rd minutes in a comeback victory that will still dwell on the minds of Barca fans who witnessed the spectacle. It seems that attack is the best form of defence for the side from the outskirts of Madrid.

CD Leganes v FC Barcelona - La Liga Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

Barca cannot afford to allow Leganes time on the ball, which should not prove too difficult given the Blaugranes’ commanding playing style. While they should manage to quash any of Leganes’ attacking efforts so long as they remain alert on the ball, they will also need to seriously outperform Leganes should they wish to penetrate their defence.

Barca undoubtedly have the firepower to take out Leganes in style, however this would mean playing some of the key players who should be resting before a tough run of fixtures in February and March. While this will still be an appropriate opportunity to provide some of Barca’s rising stars with some playing time, Valverde cannot afford to field a side that is as inexperienced as the one that played against Levante last week. While the Copa del Rey may not be seen as a priority to all Barca fans, La Liga and the Champions League undoubtedly are, and Barca cannot afford to allow their five-point lead to slip with fixtures against the likes of Valencia, Sevilla, Lyon and Real Madrid awaiting them.

This is a match where the Blaugranes cannot afford to be complacent, and they will need to have their wits about them for the entire 90 minutes in order to get the better of the dark horse that is Leganes.

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