Spanish champions and current table toppers FC Barcelona travel to the Estadi Ciutat de València stadium to take on bottom club Levante UD on Sunday. 

FC Barcelona head into the clash against Levante on the back of a 7-0 mauling of Valencia at the Camp Nou in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semi final in midweek. Four goals from Luis Suarez and three from Lionel Messi helped the Catalans obliterate Gary Neville’s struggling side. They are now tasked with overcoming Valencia’s derby rivals — Levante — who are currently struggling to retain their top flight status. After registering just 4 wins all season, Levante find themselves firmly rooted at the bottom of the La Liga league table with 17 points.

Rubi vs Luis Enrique

Rubi was appointed as the manager of Levante in October last year after Lucas Alcaraz was sacked after just 9 games into the season. Levante had accumulated just 6 points from their opening 9 matches under Alcaraz and have not fared much better under Rubi.

Luis Enrique’s FC Barcelona side on the other hand, have steam rolled their way on to the top of the league table and have played some sumptuous football in doing so. Enrique’s Barcelona sit 3 points clear of 2nd placed Atletico Madrid with a match in hand and will travel to Levante hoping to extend his side’s unbeaten streak in all competitions to 27.

Rubi will park the bus to stop the MSN onslaught

Having conceded 41 goals in 22 matches and in the league this season, Rubi’s tottering Levante side will be looking to park the bus in front of goal when Barcelona come visiting. The Levante backline comprising of Lopez, Trujillo, Feddal and Tono will have their hands full against Barcelona’s indomitable South American front three — Messi, Suarez and Neymar.

New Levante UD head coach Joan Francesc Ferrer 'Rubi'

Levante’s leaky defence is not the only reason why they are languishing at the bottom of the league table. Rubi’s forward line is the third worst in the league after scoring just 21 goals this season — only Real Betis (15) and Espanyol (20) have scored less. However, they have showed a recent resurgence in their attacking form having scored 9 goals in their 4 matches.

Interestingly, Rubi was part of the FC Barcelona coaching staff under former manager Tito Vilanova in 2013-14 and will be looking to put his experience to best use when his former come visiting on Sunday.

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All out attack the mantra for Luis Enrique in his 100th Match

A victory for the Blaugrana on Sunday will see Luis Enrique equal Pep Guardiola’s record of 28 matches unbeaten as the manager of Barcelona in 2010-11, in what will be the Asturian’s 100th game in charge of the club. The excellent relationship between Messi, Suarez and Neymar on and off the pitch has been instrumental in Barcelona’s dominance in the league this season. The instinctive understanding and the telepathic movement of the trio has been a treat to watch for the neutrals.

FC Barcelona vs Real Betis

Enrique has done well in rotating his pack in the midst of a gruelling mid season schedule that has seen Barcelona play more matches this season than any other in Europe. New signings Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal have given Enrique sufficient freedom to shuffle his squad and alter his formations from match to match. Despite Barcelona’s dominance in the league, Enrique will be slightly perturbed by his side’s recent away form that has seen them pick up just 1 win from their last 3 matches.

Key Battles

Tono vs Luis Suarez

FC BARCELONA VS VALENCIA FC

While Lionel Messi and Neymar have grabbed the headlines in recent weeks, Barcelona hitman Luis Suarez is in midst of the best season of his career. The Uruguayan’s deadly finishing has seen him rise to the top of the European goal scoring charts with 35 goals in 33 matches in all competitions. His phenomenal work rate and constant endeavour to win the ball has added another dimension to Barcelona’s play. Tono, who has made the highest number of appearances in defence for Levante this season, has a massive task on his hand to keep El Pistolero out of the score books.

Jose Luis Morales vs Dani Alves

UD Levante vs UD Las Palmas

Jose Luis Morales scored a brace last weekend to hand basement dwellers Levante a crucial win over fellow strugglers Las Palmas in a proverbial relegation six pointer. Morales, who operates on the left as a winger, has played an important role in Levante’s fight to avoid the drop this season. His 5 goals in 17 appearances have given Rubi a fighting chance of staying put in the Spanish top flight. Barcelona’s veteran right-back Dani Alves will be at hand to keep Morales at check on Sunday afternoon.

Giuseppe Rossi vs Gerard Pique

FC BARCELONA VS VALENCIA FC

Levante signed Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi on loan from Fiorentina in the winter transfer window to preserve their status as a Spanish top flight club. Rossi’s promising career has been plagued by devastating injury spells during his stay at Manchester United, Villarreal and Fiorentina. He will be hoping to revive his career and and turn around the fortunes of Levante during his six month stay at the club. Rossi will be up against Spanish international Gerard Pique, who has arguably been Barcelona’s stand out defender for the past few seasons.

Blast from the Past

FC Barcelona 4 -1 Levante UD

Earlier in the season, FC Barcelona put in a virtuoso display to thump Levante by four goals to one at the Camp Nou. Marc Bartra opened the scoring for Barcelona which was closely followed by a goal from Neymar. Lionel Messi put two more past a hapless Levante defence to complete the rout for Luis Enrique’s side.

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