Barcelona XI vs Leganes: Confirmed team news, predicted lineup, latest injuries for LaLiga clash

Luis Suarez looks set to return to Barcelona’s starting XI for the first time since January when the LaLiga leaders host struggling Leganes at Camp Nou tonight.

The Uruguayan forward came off the bench in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Mallorca as the competition resumed following its three-month coronavirus shutdown.

That was Suarez’s first appearance since undergoing knee surgery after the Spanish Supercopa defeat to Atletico Madrid in January and with a busy period of games ahead, he is in line to start on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi will also be included in the XI and for the other forward slot, coach Quique Setien must decide whether to get behind under-fire attacker Antoine Griezmann or hand another start to Martin Braithwaite against his former club.

Braithwaite, who signed for Barca from Leganes in an emegency deal in February, scored his first goal for the Catalan club on Saturday.

Setien could also consider 17-year-old forward Ansu Fati on the left, with Barca in action again on Friday night in a tough match away to Sevilla.

In midfield, Arthur looks likely to start after he came on as a substitute against Mallorca, while Ivan Rakitic could also be included from the outset.

At the back, Clement Lenglet is available again after suspension and should replace Ronald Araujo, but Jordi Alba is banned and his place will be occupied by Junior Firpo.

Barcelona predicted XI: Ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Lenglet, Firpo; Arthur, Busquets, Rakitic; Messi, Suarez, Griezmann

Leganes predicted XI: Cuellar; Rosales, Omeruo, Awaziem, Silva; Perez, Recio; Ruibal, Erraso, Assale; Guerrero

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Luis Suarez reunion with Lionel Messi can fire Barcelona to LaLiga title… if small squad can take the strain

Barcelona resume their bid for a ninth LaLiga title in 12 years on Saturday after the competition returned on Thursday following the coronavirus lockdown.

The Catalans lead fierce rivals Real Madrid by two points with 11 rounds remaining and the good news for coach Quique Setien who is seeking his first trophy is the return of Luis Suarez.

Setien said on Friday that the Uruguayan is ready to start against Mallorca on Saturday despite five months out after knee surgery and his fitness represents a huge boost for the coach ahead of the run-in.

Suarez has yet to play under Setien, having had his operation straight after Enesto Valverde’s final game in charge, and the 61-year-old has never worked with a striker like Luis.

Apart from a comprehensive 5-0 win over Eibar in late February, all of Setien’s league wins as Barcelona coach have been achieved by a single goal. And even Lionel Messi has not looked quite himself in the absence of Suarez.

Physically, the Uruguayan is not the player he was in his first seasons at Camp Nou, yet he remains one of the world’s finest finishers — a player who can conjure up something out of nothing.

In addition, his understanding with Messi was absolutely key to Barca’s best performances under Valverde and the same should apply with Setien in charge.

That Eibar match — in which Messi scored four — notwithstanding, the Argentine looked lost at times in the absence of his friend and chief associate in attack. Their rapport around the area is almost telepathic and the presence of Suarez creates extra spaces for Leo. He has been badly missed.

Messi has already won LaLiga 10 times and Suarez has claimed the title in four out of his five seasons at the Catalan club. Their partnership will be essential once again.

The enforced break should also, in theory, have given the players more time to familiarise themselves with Setien’s ideas.

“Let’s hope the message from the coaches gets through,” he said on Friday. “The information we give them has to be processed. Sometimes you achieve things. This is a process of improving.”

Barca’s players will also be rested and Messi’s minor knock last week is not considered to be a concern after he trained normally from Monday.

Meanwhile, the team’s problems away from home earlier in the season should now be less of an issue as games are played behind closed doors, something which will favour the bigger sides.

All of that is positive and there are plenty of reasons to believe Barca will claim the title once again, although there is one area where the Catalans are at a significant disadvantage to Real Madrid in the race for LaLiga: squad strength.

Both Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets have complained publicly about the squad planning and lack of numbers this term, with the players unhappy at preparations for the season by the board and technical staff last summer.

Striker Martin Braithwaite was brought in as an emergency signing in February after Ousmane Dembele was ruled out for six months (and deregistered for LaLiga, meaning he cannot feature in the competition again in 2019-20).

But Abel Ruiz and Carles Perez both left in January and Barca are left with about 17 senior players, which includes two goalkeepers, plus 17-year-old Ansu Fati, 20-year-old Riqui Puig and a few more youngsters.

Ahead of a hectic period in which Barca will play 11 fixtures in just 37 days, Setien’s squad will be stretched — especially in the event of injuries — and in that department, Madrid are better off as Zinedine Zidane has a much deeper roster at his disposal.

Barca also still face tough trips to Sevilla and Villarreal, plus a home game against Atletico in a run of fixtures which looks tougher on paper than the games left for their title rivals.

“Even though we have a two-point lead, it’s a new competition now,” defender Clement Lenglet said last week.

Managing resources, particularly Messi and Suarez, will be vital for Barcelona in their hopes of retaining the title.

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LaLiga return date set for June 20 with ‘clubs to play twice a week’

The LaLiga season will resume on June 20, according to Leganes coach Javier Aguirre.

Spain’s top flight has been on pause since March 10 though clubs are starting to return to training this week.

Barcelona announced on Thursday that the squad will resume training on Friday after the squad underwent coronavirus testing.

Now top-flight action is edging towards a conclusion.

“We now have a start date for the league, we begin on June 20 and finish officially on July 26,” Aguirre told Mexican website Marca Claro.

“We will play 11 rounds of matches on Saturdays and Sundays and Wednesdays and Thursdays.

“La Liga has just told me this officially and I’m very happy that we now have our training programme scheduled.”

Germany’s Bundesliga announced on Thursday that it will resume action on May 16, making it the first of Europe’s top five leagues to resume action.

Additional reporting by Reuters.

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