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FC Barcelona host Leganés in this Thursday (7.00pm CET) in the last 16 of the Copa del Rey. It’s time to take a closer look at Los Pepineros (The Cucumbers)…
WHERE ARE THEY FROM?
The city of Leganés (population 186,000) lies on the south-western outskirts of Madrid, and to most madrileños is best known for being home to Parquesur, one of the largest shopping centres in Europe. One of its most popular attractions is a street named after heavy metal kings AC/DC, who came to town for its inauguration. They have a road named after German rocksters The Scorpions too. Awesome people!
Cucumber farming is an important part of the local economy, and that’s where they get their peculiar nickname from (los pepineros), that being the Spanish word for the vegetable.
Formed in 1928, Leganés played in the lower leagues until they enjoyed an eleven-season spell in the second division from 1993 to 2004. They never came close to being promoted to the top flight and eventually dropped back down to the third tier. A decade later, in 2014, they were back – and two years later the club reached the unprecedented heights of La Liga and have stayed there ever since.
Leganés wore similar blaugrana shirts to Barça at first, but later adopted green in honour of their nickname, although they have since switched again to blue and white.
Their local rivals are Getafe, but they very rarely met after the latter started playing in the first division from 2004 onwards. Now Leganés are up there too. Who would have imagined at the start of the century that the South Madrid Derby would now be a first division fixture!
Until 2017, Leganés had only reached the last 16 of the cup once in their history, but they have now achieved the feat three times in a row. They have only progressed any further once, in 2018 when they reached the semi-finals, knocking out Real Madrid along the way and eventually losing to Sevilla.
HEAD TO HEAD
Since Leganés were promoted to the top flight, the clubs have met seven times. Barça have won six of them, but Leganés got their first victory at Butarque last season. The most recent meeting, also at Butarque, was just two months ago, Barça winning 2-1 at Butarque.
This the first time they have ever met in the cup.
Leganés 1 Barça 5 (Messi 2, Suárez, Neymar, Rafinha)
Barça 2 Leganés 1 (Messi 2)
Leganés 0 Barça 3 (Suárez 2, Paulinho)
Barça 3 Leganés 1 (Messi 3)
Leganés 2 Barça 1 (Coutinho)
Barça 3 Leganés 1 (Dembélé. Suárez, Messi)
Leganés 1 Barça 2 (Busquets, Vidal)
Leganés were having a dismal season, with just win from their first fifteen games, leaving them rock bottom of the table. But the change of manager seems to have done something ‘Lega’ have only lost one of their last six games and are now above Espanyol in the table.
Although they are still looking for their first away win, they have drawn their last three, including a 0-0 draw with Atlético Madrid at the weekend.
All of their cup games, including this one at Camp Nou, have been away from home, in which so far they have beaten Andorra, Murcia and Ebro.
International caps: Roberto Rosales (Venezuela, 79), Kenneth Omeruo (Nigeria, 51), Martin Braithwaite (Denmark, 39), Dimitris Siovas (Greece, 18), Chidozie Awaziem (Nigeria, 14), Kévin Rodrigues (Portugal, 3), Jonathan Silva (Argentina, 2)
Top scorer 2019/20: Martin Braithwaite (6)
Full back Marc Navarro spent almost a decade at La Masia as a youngster but turned professional at Espanyol. He’s currently at Leganés on loan from Watford.
Winger José Arnaiz (pictured below) was at Barça B two seasons ago and made four first team appearances under Ernesto Valverde. Three of those were in the Copa del Rey, where he had three shots and scored from all of them!
Centre back Rodrigo Tarín was also at Barça B from 2015 to 2018.
Following the sacking of Mauricio Pellegrino and an interim period with Luis Cembranos (curiously two men who had brief spells at Barça in their playing days), Leganés recruited the services of Javier Aguirre in November.
He is a familiar face in Spain after managing Osasuna, Atlético Madrid, Zaragoza and Espanyol in the past, and as well as his own Mexican national team, he has also managed Japan and Egypt.
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