Luis Suarez ends goal drought but Lionel Messi quiet in Barcelona win
Luis Suarez broke his long goal drought by scoring twice to give Barcelona a 3-0 win at Leganes that looked easy by the end but was anything but.
The Uruguayan enjoyed a much needed two-week rest in Barcelona rather than going away with Uruguay on international duty and was far sharper as a result, scoring both his goals on the rebound and could even have scored a hat trick, but Paulinho added the third instead.
Leganes had their moments, however, and Barca were again grateful to a massive performance from Marc-Andre ter Stegen as they kept an eighth clean sheet of the season.
No-one in the squad needed a goal more badly than Suarez and his confidence should grow after ending a five-game barren spell, while Paco Alcacer should also be in high spirits after a second decisive display in a row.
Gerard Pique's booking suspends him for the trip to Valencia. Along with Javier Mascherano's month long absence, it means Thomas Vermaelen might have to be drafted in for the top of the table clash despite not playing a minute of club football this season.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- Ernesto Valverde made the right calls in taking off Andres Iniesta and Nelson Semedo early in the second half, as Paulinho and Aleix Vidal injected more pace into the team to help finish off Leganes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 7 -- Produced another huge display to rank just below his exhibition of saves at San Mames. The German had to stretch to palm away Alexander Szymanowski's shot and stood his ground on three occasions in the second half, most impressively to thwart Nordin Amrabat.
DF Nelson Semedo, 5 -- Started for the third game in a row but struggled to make an impact and looked dejected when he was hauled off after 55 minutes.
DF Gerard Pique, 5 -- Was beaten too often by the Leganes forwards and his booking for tugging Amrabat's shirt, which he vehemently protested, leaves Barcelona short staffed in defence to face Valencia.
DF Samuel Umtiti, 7 -- Yet again proved Barca's most reliable defender, seldom misplacing a pass.
DF Jordi Alba, 6 -- Had a quiet first half but improved in the second and took advantage of the space opening up to help pick apart Leganes.
MF Ivan Rakitic, 6 -- Worked hard in midfield to help grind down Leganes's resistance.
MF Sergio Busquets, 7 -- Played his 450th game for the club, going level with Charly Rexach on appearances. Helped break the deadlock with an outstanding chipped pass to Alcacer which split the hosts' defence.
MF Andres Iniesta, 6 -- Looked tired after playing twice for Spain and was taken off only 10 minutes into the second half.
FW Lionel Messi, 6 -- Had a quiet game, given his phenomenal standards. His influence was limited for large parts of the game due to Leganes' excellent defensive work but he still played a part in two goals, playing in Alcacer for the second and rolling the ball back for Paulinho to poke in for the third.
FW Paco Alcacer, 8 -- Kicked on from his two goals against Sevilla with another decisive display, sparking both of Suarez's goals with shots at Ivan Cuellar. Linked up superbly with Messi.
FW Luis Suarez, 7 -- Reaped the benefits of a much-needed fortnight off and was far sharper in front of goal, scoring twice for Barca for the first time since the 3-0 win at Espanyol last April.
MF Paulinho, 7 -- Gave Barca a more direct attacking threat and he scored his fourth goal of the season, continuing to answer those who fiercely criticised his signing.
DF Aleix Vidal, 5 -- Missed an open goal from inside the box that would have made it 3-0.
MF Denis Suarez, N/R -- Came on for the final eight minutes.
Richard Martin covers FC Barcelona for ESPN FC. Twitter: @rich9908.