Defensive issues remain a concern for Barcelona

Umtiti

Barcelona slipped to their first La Liga defeat of the season in midweek, going down to a shock 2-1 loss to struggling Leganes.

Ernesto Valverde’s side remain top of the table, as Real Madrid slipped to a 3-0 defeat away at Sevilla, but he will be concerned with their leakiness in defence.

The defending La Liga champions have now failed to keep a clean sheet in their last four domestic games, including wins over Huesca and Real Sociedad, a draw with Girona and the loss to Leganes.

The former Athletic Bilbao boss has rotated his back four in those games, with injuries and suspensions forcing his hand at times.

Sergi Roberto has started all four games at right back, and he has been highlighted as a weakness by opposition sides. He was caught out for the two goals conceded against Huesca, although it did not matter as much as Barcelona scored eight in reply, but it was still noted.

Against Sociedad he was out jumped by in the build up to Aritz Elustondo’s goal, although Samuel Umtiti could also have done better.

In the Girona game, Barcelona were reduced to ten men early on, as defender Clement Lenglet was dismissed and then Gerard Pique was outfoxed by Cristhian Stuani for the first goal, before almost conceding a penalty in the build up to his second.

Against Leganes, Valverde opted for Thomas Vermaelen at left back, and the former Arsenal defender was beaten in the air for Nabil El Zhar’s opening goal, before a horror mistake by Pique saw Oscar score the eventual winner.

High balls, and a failure to deal with them, have been the main issue in the past month, but there is concern that there is a deeper problem with Barcelona’s defence.

Both Roberto and Nelson Semedo are more adept at going forward than at defending, but the latter was in the frame at the start of the season as Barcelona were keeping clean sheets, meaning his is more likely to be given a first team run now.

At left back, Vermaelen has never looked comfortable, and Jordi Alba has done little wrong to lose his starting place.

In the middle, Umtiti looks shaken from the powerful and effective enforcer that he was in 2017-18, and Pique’s errors are beginning to mount up, as he enters into his early thirties.

Lenglet’s suspension has now been completed, but Valverde must decide whether to drop club legend Pique ahead of a crucial run of fixtures.

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