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La Liga: FC Barcelona vs Levante UD: Match Preview

A preview of Barcelona's La Liga clash with Levante at the Camp Nou

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images

FC Barcelona will be aiming to extend their winning streak tomorrow in front of an expectant Camp Nou crowd, when they welcome lowly Levante UD to Catalunya for Jornada 23 of La Liga. Through 22 matches, the Blaugrana lie just a single point off the pace; although league leaders Real Madrid temporarily extended their lead over Barça back to four points with an unconvincing 2-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna earlier tonight.

Levante on the other hand have spent the majority of the campaign struggling for form; an unexpected and emphatic 4-1 win over Malaga last weekend propelled Levante towards safety and off the bottom, yet even in spite of that win, the Valencian outfit remain in the relegation zone. Their form away from the Ciutat de Valencia has left a lot to be desired – only Espanyol and Real Sociedad have claimed fewer points on their travels thus far this campaign.

On paper, this should be a straight-forward victory for FC Barcelona – their 11th straight in all competitions. That isn’t arrogance – I’m just telling it like it is. If we thought the loss to Real Sociedad at the Anoeta represented a crisis, well, a home defeat or even a draw against one of the worst sides in the division would surely be tantamount to the apocalypse.

After a midweek Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg victory over Villarreal CF, Luis Enrique may feel there is a need to rotate some of his key players tomorrow. Equally, the squad will have a full week to recuperate before their next fixture against Malaga, so whether we see some changes tomorrow remains anyone’s guess.

Will Lucho ring the changes? Will FC Barcelona keep their momentum? We’ll find out soon enough.



By now you will have surely seen the news: Andrés Iniesta has picked up an illness and is therefore doubtful to make the squad tomorrow. Dani Alves is suspended after he picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend against Athletic Bilbao, while Douglas may or may not still be injured. To be frank, I really couldn’t care less. Leaving all that aside, Barcelona don’t really have any new concerns, or anything to worry about past the game tomorrow. The squad is in good shape, and we’ll look to keep them that way for the foreseeable future.

By and large, everyone is in form as well. We’re playing with confidence and that’s evident in all of our players. Even if they have a troublesome night on an individual basis, they seem to remain upbeat and confident for the next match: Marc-André ter Stegen is a great example. He made a high-profile error in midweek, but he laughed it off and won’t let it get him down.

However, he won’t be starting tomorrow; Claudio Bravo will remain between the sticks, as is customary for our La Liga fixtures. In defense, Alves’ suspension could open up a space in the line-up for Martin Montoya; or it could mean a start for our resident utility man, Adriano Correia. The media in Catalunya are suggesting the latter, but we never quite know with Enrique.

In the centre of defense, Javier Mascherano may return to the backline after his start at pivote on Wednesday, or Jeremy Mathieu could hold down his place for a third successive match. Marc Bartra on the other hand may have designs on making his first appearance since the end of January when he started in our blowout 6-0 win over Elche CF – and of course, one cannot rule Gerard Piqué out of contention either. I’d love to see Bartra and Mascherano, but suspect it’ll probably be Mascherano and Mathieu, with Jordi Alba rounding off the defense on the left.

Sergio Busquets was perhaps a surprise omission in midweek, so expect him to return in midfield tomorrow while Andrés Iniesta’s illness practically ensures that Ivan Rakitić and Xavi will return in the two advanced roles tomorrow. Yes, Rafinha Alcântara has been playing well; but it’s not like Xavi nor Rakitić deserve to be benched either – it’s just their time to feature on the rotation.

In attack, maybe Neymar could use a rest. Maybe he just had a somewhat "off" night on Wednesday and will be back on form tomorrow? Either way, there are some Culés who would like to see him rested; while there are others who would prefer to see Lionel Messi given a break. Be that as it may, we probably won’t see either on the bench – at least that’s what the Catalan media are reporting. But hey, we can’t complain about a chance to see the Suarez-Messi-Neymar frontline, can we?


Victor Camarasa picked up his fifth yellow card of the season last weekend, and will therefore serve a one-match suspension for accumulation, while Levante will also be without Nabil El Zhar, Andreas Ivanschitz and Mohammed Sissoko through injury. Even with all those players missing, Lucas Alcaraz still has a dilemma: does he stick with the Kalu Uche and David Barral partnership in attack, or does he drop one or the other in favour of a more defensive approach?


Barcelona: WWWWWW

Levante: DWLLLW


Levante UD 0-5 FC Barcelona – 21st September 2014 – La Liga

A Manita with five different scorers: a goal apiece from Neymar, Lionel Messi, Pedro, Sandro and Ivan Rakitić secured an emphatic win for the Blaugrana in this landslide away victory.


Barcelona (4-3-3): Bravo; Adriano, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba; Busquets, Xavi, Rakitić; Messi, Suarez, Neymar

Levante (4-2-3-1): Marino; Ivan, Vyntra, Ramis, Tono; Diop, Simao; Xumetra, Victor, Morales; Uche


No contest. Depends how early we get the first goal, and how ruthless we are feeling. I’m going for another Manita.

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