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FC Barcelona resume their LaLiga campaign with an away game against Leganés this Saturday (4:15pm CET), as they look to extend their 4-point advantage at the top of the table. Still unbeaten, Ernesto Valverde's men take on a side ninth and pushing for a European spot in only their second season in the top flight.
Barça players got through their international commitments over the past fornight relatively unscathed, but a hamstring injury suffered by Javier Mascherano in a friendly for Argentina against Nigeria means he will be sidelined for around four weeks.
The centre back joins long-term absentees Rafinha and Ousmane Dembelé on the casualty list, as well as Arda Turan, Sergi Roberto and André Gomes.
The full squad available to Valverde is as follows: Ter Stegen, Cillessen, Semedo, Piqué, Rakitic, Sergio, Denis Suárez, Iniesta, Suárez, Messi, Paulinho, Deulofeu, Paco Alcácer, Jordi Alba, Digne, Aleix Vidal, Umtiti and Vermaelen.
Leganés will be without Jon Ander Serantes for their first home game in almost a month.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Ernesto Valverde warned of the dangerous nature of the first fixture back after the international break.
Leganés coach Asier Garitano explained his side's approach to the Matchday 12 game, stating that "I think with our current squad we can show a better level than in the 5-1 loss, but we will have to suffer a lot if we want to feel joy when the match ends."
Yet to taste defeat since the season got underway, Barça have been in trememendous form and dropped points on just one occasion so far this term (against Atletico Madrid away). Whilst Leo Messi continues to lead the way in the top goalscorer charts, defensively the team have been nothing short of outstanding: There have been just four goals conceded by them in LaLiga this term. Their last fixture before the international break was against Sevilla, in which a brace from Paco Alcácer gave Barça a 2-1 win at home.
Leganés had made a promising start to the campaign, but have lost their last two games (against Sevilla and Valencia). Defence is their strong point and, like Barça, they have made their home ground a fortress; only two goals have been scored by an away side at Butarque, in a 1-2 deafeat against Getafe back in September. All signs point to them being a tough team for the potent FC Barcelona strikeforce to break down.
Due to this being only Leganés' second season in the Primera División, there are just two precedents to draw upon -but both are positive for Barça. On their last visit to Butarque, goals from Messi (x2), Luis Suárez and Neymar gave them a 0-4 lead at half time, and Rafinha completed the 1-5 rout with his second half goal.
Messi was also on the scoresheet twice against Leganés back in February at the Camp Nou, including a 90th minute winner from the penalty spot in a 2-1 triumph.
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