A victory against Levante at Camp Nou on Saturday night would see Barcelona getting crowned as the champions of the 2018-19 La Liga.
Three points. That is all Barcelona need to lift the La Liga title for the second consecutive season. And they will be aiming to achieve just that when they welcome Levante to Camp Nou this weekend.
Barcelona have steamrolled through the La Liga campaign this time around and sit comfortably at the top, with a nine-point advantage over closest challengers Atletico Madrid. Should Los Rojiblancos fail to win against Real Valladolod earlier on Saturday, Ernesto Valverde’s men will be confirmed as the champions without even kicking a ball.
Last time out, the Catalans defeated Alaves 2-0 away from home and will be keen on wrapping things up in La Liga this weekend, in order to shift their focus firmly on the UEFA Champions League, where they will be facing Liverpool in the semi-finals.
Levante, on the other hand, find themselves stationed in the 15th spot in the league standings, just three points clear of the relegation zone. Paco Lopez’s side are unbeaten in their last two fixtures, beating Real Betis 4-0 in their most recent outing earlier this week.
Levante did beat Barcelona once this season, securing a 2-1 win in the Copa del Rey, but had been thrashed 5-0 in La Liga prior to that match. The Granotas are scheduled to play two of the current bottom three sides – Girona and Rayo Vallecano – after the Barcelona game and will be looking at those two fixtures to secure safety rather than Saturday’s encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Rafinha Alcantara is the only major injury absentee for Barcelona heading into the game on Saturday. The Liverpool fixture will be on Valverde’s mind when he picks his side, but it is unlikely that he would rotate too much like he did in the 0-0 draw against Huesca earlier this month.
In goal, there is no looking past the ever-present figure of Marc-Andre ter Stegen for the champions-elect. Nelson Semedo could start at right-back ahead of Sergi Roberto, while Jordi Alba is expected to return to the lineup at left-back. Gerard Pique could be given a breather though, meaning Clement Lenglet and Samuel Umtiti start as the centre-back pairing.
Ivan Rakitic was not part of the starting XI against Alaves, but should return to the side on Saturday, starting as the deepest of the three midfielders, allowing Sergio Busquets to rest up ahead of the Liverpool fixture. Carles Alena, who scored in the last game, should hold on to his spot against Levante, as should Arturo Vidal, who was one of Barcelona’s top performers last time out.
Ousmane Dembele should feature from kick-off again as he needs to build up form after his injury layoff, while club captain and superstar Lionel Messi should return to the side on the right-side. Luis Suarez, who scored against Alaves, should start again, ahead of Kevin-Prince Boateng.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba; Vidal, Rakitic, Alena; Messi, Suarez, Dembele
Ruben Rochina is back in contention for selection after serving out his suspension. Cheick Doukoure is the only injury-enforced absentee for Levante for their trip to Barcelona. Paco Lopez will set his team up in a 4-3-3 formation to mirror their hosts.
Aitor Fernandez will be a busy man between the sticks for Levante and will need all the protection he can get from the back four comprising of Coke and Tono as the full-backs with Ruben Vezo and Rober Pier at the heart of the defence. Nikola Vukcevic will start as the holding midfielder to offer added protection to the visitors’ backline.
Ruben Rochina should be reinstated into the starting XI in the middle of the park in place of Enis Bardhi, while Jose Campana, who scored two goals in the win against Betis earlier in the week, should complete the three-man midfield on Saturday night.
24-year-old Jason will hold on to his spot on the right-side of the attack, while on the opposite flank will be Jose Luis Morales, who was on the scoresheet last time out. Former Real Madrid forward Borja Mayoral started against Betis, but should make way for leading goalscorer Roger Marti on Saturday night as the lone striker.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Fernandez; Coke, Pier, Vezo, Tono; Rochina, Vukcevic, Campana; Jason, Marti, Morales
- Barcelona could win their eighth La Liga title in the last 11 seasons should they match or better Atletico Madrid’s result in their game against Real Valladolid.
- Barcelona have only lost two of their 25 La Liga games against Levante (W19 D4), with both defeats coming away from home (5-1 in October 1964 and 5-4 in May 2018).
- Levante have not won a single point in any of their 12 league trips against Barcelona, conceding 45 goals in total.
- Barcelona have only failed to score in one of their 36 league games at Camp Nou under Ernesto Valverde, drawing 0-0 against Getafe in February 2018, keeping a clean sheet in 17 of those games.
- Levante have only won one of their last 12 La Liga away games (D4 L7), winning 4-1 against Celta de Vigo in February.
Player to Watch
It has been another sensational campaign for the little magician from Argentina. Messi, this term, has bagged 45 goals already from 44 matches in all competitions, while also chalking up 22 assists. The 31-year-old is currently the leading goalscorer in La Liga with 33 strikes to his name and looks set for another Pichichi trophy come the end of the season.
Messi has scored 20 goals and provided 17 assists in his 18 appearances versus Levante in all competitions. In the reverse fixture against Levante last year, the Barcelona superstar was involved in each of the five goals scored by his side (three goals and two assists).
Having made a substitute appearance against Alaves earlier this week, the Barcelona captain is likely to be reinstated to the starting lineup on Saturday and he will be gunning to lead his side to a title with a match-winning display, which would also help him warm up for the all-important Champions League semi-finals against Liverpool.
Barcelona 2-0 Levante
Levante ended their five-match winless run in the league with an emphatic 4-0 triumph over Real Betis earlier this weekend and will take confidence from the fact that they have already gotten the better of Barcelona once this term, albeit a much-changed side in a cup tie.
Barcelona, on the other hand, have been in unstoppable form and are unbeaten in their last 22 matches in La Liga. Their record at home against Levante is impeccable as well, as they have won all of their last 13 fixtures against the Granotas at Camp Nou, who themselves have picked up just one win in their last 12 games on the road.
With the impending clash against Liverpool in mind, there could be some rotation, but this Barcelona side have plenty of quality to see out Levante’s challenge. Title coronation awaits the Blaugrana at home on Saturday night.