Barcelona will be hoping to rediscover their winning form when they play hosts to Levante at Camp Nou on Sunday in La Liga.
Following an embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Juventus in midweek, Barcelona will be desperate to get back to winning ways as they welcome Levante on Sunday in La Liga. It is a must-win game for the home side, who are also coming on the back of a 2-1 defeat to Cadiz in their last league game.
The Spanish giants are currently dawdling in mid-table with just 14 points on the board, worryingly trailing table-toppers Atletico Madrid by 12 points heading into this weekend’s round of fixtures. Although they have played one or two fewer matches than clubs around them in the league table, it is safe to say that Barcelona’s title challenge could be at stake should they lose to Levante this weekend.
The Granotas are struggling in the drop zone, having registered just two wins in the league so far. However, a win against Barcelona could see them get level on points with the Catalan giants. It could also give them the advantage over clubs like Celta Vigo, Real Valladolid, Eibar and Getafe, all of whom have played one or two more matches.
Unlike Barcelona, Levante are heading into this game on a positive note as well. They secured a formidable 3-0 victory over Getafe in their last league game and are unbeaten in their last six matches, meaning they are yet to be unbeaten since a 2-0 loss to Athletic Bilbao in mid-October.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of this crucial encounter in La Liga as Barcelona look to recover from their poor start to the campaign.
Team News & Tactics
Koeman will once again be missing key players including Ansu Fati, Gerard Pique and Ousmane Dembele. Samuel Umtiti, however, is in contention after featuring as a substitute in the last game.
Umtiti may even get the nod ahead of young Ronald Araujo, who simply failed to impose his authority and even took a knock late in the game. We could thus expect an all-French central defensive unit, with him and Clement Lenglet starting while Jordi Alba and Sergino Dest should continue to occupy the full-back positions.
Koeman could ring in the changes in midfield, with Miralem Pjanic likely to make way for Sergio Busquets. The defensive midfielder will be hoping to prove himself after being benched against Juventus.
He is set to operate at the base of Barcelona’s 4-2-3-1, alongside the ever-present figure of Frenkie de Jong, although we might also see Riqui Puig making a second-half appearance following a promising display against Juventus.
Moving forward, Barcelona could shuffle their pack in the attack as well. Pedri and Trincao, in particular, are both expected return to the bench, thus paving the way for Martin Braithwaite to spearhead the attack for the home side.
The Dane should provide the physical presence in the final third that should combine well with the trickery and mastery on the ball from players like Lionel Messi, Phillipe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann as the Blaugrana look to get the better of the Levante backline.
Probable Lineup (4-2-3-1): ter Stegen; Dest, Umtiti, Lenglet, Alba; Busquets, de Jong; Griezmann, Messi, Coutinho; Braithwaite
Levante boss Paco Lopez likes to play compact football, with a classic 4-4-2 resulting in two banks of four providing cover for goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez. They have a bunch of exciting players as well – players who can make the difference with their experience and ability to work as a unit.
— Levante UD 🐸 (@LevanteUD) December 12, 2020
Unfortunately, Levante have been crippled by the absence of star player Jose Campana at the moment while Cheick Doucoure and Enis Bardhi are also missing. It will force Lopez to improvise and find a way to create chances against a Barcelona side who are more than likely to dominate possession.
Club captain Jose Luis Morales has been the club’s top-scorer with four goals and should spearhead the Levante attack alongside Roger Marti, who was on the scoresheet in the 3-0 win over Getafe last weekend. However, things could get much trickier against one of the biggest teams in Europe. Dani Lopez is another option upfront.
Either way, it is the back-four that is going to play a key role for Levante and the overall performance of the central defensive partnership between Ruben Vezo and Sergio Postigo could go a long way in dictating the fate of the Valencian outfit in this fixture.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Fernandez; Coke, Vezo, Postigo, Clerc; Rochina, Vukcevic, Melero, de Frutos; Marti, Morales
- Barcelona have lost two of their last five La Liga games against Levante, double the number of defeats they suffered against them in their previous 23 matches in the competition.
- At home, Barcelona have played 14 games against Levante, winning all of them – they only have a better 100% home record in the competition against Granada.
- Levante were the last side to score five or more goals against Barcelona in a La Liga game (5-4 in May 2018).
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 12 home La Liga games against Valencian sides, winning 11 of them since a 1-2 defeat vs Valencia in April 2016.
- Barcelona have lost four of their opening 10 La Liga games in 2020/21 campaign, their worst run at this stage of a La Liga season since 2000/01 (four) when they finished fourth.
Player to Watch
Lionel Messi was the only bright spot in an otherwise dire performance from Barcelona in their 3-0 defeat to Juventus in midweek. The Argentine constantly tried to make something up for his team but was denied by Gianluigi Buffon, although most of his attempts on goal were straight at the goalkeeper.
This weekend, Messi could once again play a key role not only in Barcelona’s overall chance creation but also their productivity as the Catalans continue to miss out on the services of star players like Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele.
Moreover, Messi himself has a lot to prove following a relatively quiet start to the campaign that has seen him score only four goals in ten league matches so far. So the little magician is a safe bet as far as a potential game-changer is concerned, in this vital La Liga fixture.
Barcelona 2-1 Levante
In any other season, Barcelona would have been the undisputed favourites to seal all three points against Levante at Camp Nou. However, this is not just any other season. And a congested fixture schedule, a long list of absentees and a lack of form should make things much more difficult for Koeman’s men so it won’t be surprising to see this game heading down to the wire, although we do still expect the hosts to prevail.