Barcelona will be looking to keep pace with rivals Real Madrid at the top of the La Liga table, when they play hosts to Levante on Sunday night.
Reigning champions Barcelona will be aiming to get back to winning ways in the La Liga when they welcome thirteenth-placed Levante to Camp Nou on Matchday 22 this weekend.
Barcelona were beaten 2-0 by Valencia in their last league match following which they have slipped down to the second place in the table, three points behind arch rivals Real Madrid, which could potentially rise to six with Los Blancos playing Atletico Madrid on Saturday afternoon.
Quique Setien’s side did come back strongly with a 5-0 win against Leganes in Copa del Rey, and will once again need to be at their best on Sunday if they are to maintain the pressure on Real Madrid.
Levante find themselves in the safety of the mid-table, sitting nine points above the relegation zone. But their recent form is a concern as Paco Lopez’s side come into the game on the back of three successive defeats in La Liga, with their most recent fixture ending in a 2-0 loss at the hands of Osasuna.
They will be hoping to arrest the slide, but getting a positive result at Camp Nou will be a difficult task. However, Levante can draw confidence from the fact that they thrashed Barcelona 3-1 in the reverse fixture played last November. Ahead of their latest meeting on Sunday, we at The Hard Tackle take a closer look at both the teams.
Team News & Tactics
Barcelona continue to be without the services of star striker Luis Suarez, while Ousmane Dembele is also unlikely to be available, although he is closing in on a return. There are no other major injury concerns of Setien heading into the weekend clash against Levante.
The manager ditched his 3-5-2 formation in favour of a 4-3-3 in the cup tie against Leganes and having seen the success, might choose to stick with on Sunday.
In goal, there is no looking past the excellent Marc-Andre ter Stegen, while Gerard Pique and Samuel Umtiti are likely to partner at the heart of the Barcelona defence, with Clement Lenglet dropping out despite impressing in the cup tie. Jordi Alba is nailed on for the left-back slot ahead of Junior Firpo, while Nelson Semedo should continue on the opposite side ahead of Sergi Roberto.
Sergio Busquets has been rejuvenated since Setien took over the reins and is a certainty at the base of the Barcelona midfield. Frenkie de Jong should also be retained by the manager, but the third slot in the centre of the park could see a change with Arturo Vidal making way for Arthur Melo, who came on as a substitute and scored against Leganes.
Barcelona captain Lionel Messi is a guaranteed starter on the right flank, while Ansu Fati should feature on the left-side of the attacking trident. With Suarez ruled out and no signings made in January, Griezmann should don the centre-forward role till the Uruguayan returns to action.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Semedo, Pique, Umtiti, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Arthur; Messi, Griezmann, Fati
Levante are likely to be without Rober Pier and Ivan Lopez for the trip to Camp Nou, while Oier Olazabal, Nemanja Radoja and Enis Bardhi are also doubts for the game against the reigning champions. The last time these two teams met, Paco Lopez set his team out with a four-man defence, but has shifted to a five-man backline in recent games and is expected to stick to that.
Aitor Fernandez will man the Levante goal and will need all the support he can get from his three centre-halves who are likely to be Erick Cabaco, Sergio Postigo and Ruben Vezo. Jorge Miramon and Tono are likely to be the full-backs. They will need to choose their moments carefully to charge forward and provide width.
Jose Luis Campana and Gonzalo Melero will be in charge of holding down the fort in the middle of the park, while Paco Lopez will look to Ruben Rochina to provide the forward thrust and creativity from the centre. He will act as the supply line to the strike partnership of Roger Marti and Borja Mayoral, with captain Jose Luis Morales an option from the bench.
Probable Lineup (5-3-2): Fernandez; Miramon, Cabaco, Postigo, Vezo, Tono; Melero, Campana, Rochina; Marti, Mayoral
- Barcelona have won all 13 of their home La Liga meetings against Levante – only against Granada (24) have they registered a better such 100% record.
- After winning 3-1 at Ciutat de Valencia in the reverse fixture, Levante could become the first La Liga team to record a league double against Barcelona in a single season since Real Madrid and Villarreal in 2007-08.
- Barcelona have lost four league games this season, their most defeats at this stage of a La Liga campaign since 2003-04.
- Levante have lost their last three La Liga games, they haven’t lost four in a row since February-March 2018 under Juan Ramón Muñiz.
- Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has scored in each of his last seven home games against Levante in La Liga (11 goals), his best run against an opponent at home in the competition.
Player to Watch
In Suarez’s absence, the onus of leading the line for Barcelona has fallen on the shoulders of summer signing Antoine Griezmann. After a slow start to life with his new club, the 2018 World Cup winner is slowly starting to grow in confidence and live up to the expectations that came with his big-money move from Atletico Madrid.
The 28-year-old put in a fine display in the cup tie against Leganes, bagging a goal to take his tally for the season to 12 goals and 4 assists in 29 matches across all competitions. Griezmann will be looking to carry that momentum forward when Levante come visiting and lead Barcelona to an important win in La Liga.
Barcelona 3-0 Levante
Barcelona slipped up last time out in the league, but recovered with a fine performance in the cup game in midweek. They have been unbeaten at home this season in all competitions and while Levante will draw confidence from their win against the Catalans earlier this term, they are in poor form heading into Sunday’s contest.
Based on the way Barcelona performed against Leganes this week, things seem to be finally falling into place under new manager Quique Setien, which does not bode well for the visitors. We at The Hard Tackle are predicting the reigning champions to walk home to a comfortable victory on Sunday night.