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Levante see the good, the bad and the downright ugly from Barcelona

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Ronald Koeman must go

Levante v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

The result of a must-win game at a ground where the blaugranes struggled of late should never have really been in doubt from the second minute, when Barca looked threatening and Pedri went close.

It was good to see the visitors going all out from the first whistle and looking like there was real purpose to their attacking play.

Had Pedri had his shooting boots on, he’d have scored a hat-trick before half-time, though we can’t be too hard on an 18-year-old who has already played 51 games for the first team in his first season at the club. An astonishing statistic, and fully deserved.

A 10-minute period in the opening 45 aside, Levante were no match for Ronald Koeman’s team before the break. At that stage, one couldn’t help but feel that the loss against Granada was a real opportunity missed.

Thoughts were already turning to hope that Atletico and Real Madrid would drop points in their fixtures on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

Levante UD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Indeed, 10 chances in the first half is as many as Barça have managed in a first half this season, and much of the credit for that has to be given to Ousmane Dembele.

The Frenchman took a while to get going, and the notion that he’d do any sort of defending in a wing-back role was laughable. That was Koeman’s first mistake.

However, there’s no stopping him when he’s in full flight and his gazelle-like sprint from a standing start is a joy to behold.

A magnificent show of pace and a fine delivery whilst off balance for Pedri’s goal showed everyone exactly what Dembele is capable of when he’s in the mood and the right frame of mind.

Leo Messi gave a captain’s contribution that included his 37th goal of the season in all competitions - in what is supposedly another poor season for him.

In light of his achievements when compared to his contemporaries, that particular narrative is, frankly, pathetic.

The one area that does clearly still need to be addressed is the defence.

Levante didn’t initially take their chances, though they did look dangerous whenever they pushed forward with menace.

Clement Lenglet in particular looked a spent force - again - and has done recently in both a back four or three. Normally a calm exponent of the defensive art, Lenglet seems nervous in possession and that has shown itself both in his terrible distribution of late and his awful decision making.

Gonzalo Molero’s goal just before the hour was crafted thanks to a basic attacking move at best, and yet the finish was smart and effective. Ditto, Morales’ goal and the third which was a dagger to Barca’s hopes after Dembele had raised them again.

Levante UD v FC Barcelona - La Liga Santander Photo by Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

And then we come to the boss. Well, he won’t be that for much longer.

The vultures were already circling after Barca’s failure against Atleti, but another inept second-half performance and baffling substitutions speaks of a manager that has, for all the good he has done this season and which shouldn’t be forgotten, is out of his depth when the big occasions come around.

No Riqui Puig until the last knockings, Dembele off when there was a chance he could provide the late burst of pace to open up a tiring Levante back line. Worst of all was bringing on Sergi Roberto to replace Ronald Araujo when Oscar Mingueza is sat on the bench. Come on man!

I applaud the Dutchman for his bravery in bringing through the youngsters who will shape the team over the coming years, but his limitations, particularly his in-game management, have really shown up over the past couple of weeks - just when Barca needed that extra push to get them over the line.

Maybe it’s time for Xavi to return...