Barcelona will be aiming to go to the top of the La Liga standings when they face off against Levante in Matchweek 36 this midweek.

Matchweek 36 of the 2020/21 La Liga kicks off this Tuesday night with title hopefuls Barcelona in action against Levante UD at Ciutat de Valencia as they look to take charge in the race for the championship.

Barcelona are currently third in the table, level on points with second-placed Real Madrid and two below leaders Atletico Madrid. Having blown a great chance to cut that gap this past weekend when they played out a goalless draw against Atleti, the Catalans will be gunning for all three points this week, which will take them to the top, with Atletico and Real scheduled to play on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.

As for Levante, they are currently 14th in La Liga, nine points clear from the drop zone, meaning they are all but guaranteed safety from relegation for the season. Paco Lopez’s side are without a win in their previous five games, although they did manage to bring an end to a four-game losing streak last time out when they were held to a 2-2 draw by Alaves.

The reverse fixture, played in December last year, saw Barcelona overcome a resilient Levante side by a solitary goal scored by Lionel Messi in the 76th minute. Ahead of their latest meeting on Tuesday night, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.

Team News & Tactics

Levante

Levante manager will be without the services of Nikola Vukcevic, Nemanja Radoja and Jose Campana, all of whom miss out with injuries. In some positive news, Sergio Postigo has made a swift recovery from the injury he picked up against Alaves last time out and is in the squad named by manager Paco Lopez.

The manager fielded his team in a 4-4-2 setup against Alaves and could stick to a similar shape on Tuesday night instead of reverting to a three-man defence. Dani Cardenas has been the preferred option in goal in recent games and that is unlikely to change when Barcelona come visiting.

Ruben Vezo and Oscar Duarte are likely to form the centre-back pairing flanked by the full-back duo of Son and Tono, meaning a full shuffle of the backline that started against Alaves. The full-backs are expected to stay tight and compact at the back alongside the two centre-halves to deny Barcelona spaces to exploit.

Moving into the midfield area, Rober Pier is likely to get the nod alongside Mickael Malsa, with the duo tasked with keeping a check on the forward movement of their Barcelona counterparts, Frenkie de Jong and Pedri. Jorge de Frutos, who has been linked with Real Madrid, is a certain starter on the right flank from where he will look to pump crosses into the box while Enis Bardhi should get the nod on the left.

Captain Jose Luis Morales, who scored a brace in the draw against Alaves ought to slot in as the centre-forward alongside Roger Marti, who has scored 11 goals in La Liga this season.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Cardenas; Son, Vezo, Duartez, Tono; de Frutos, Pier, Malsa, Bardhi; Marti, Morales

Barcelona

Barcelona have been handed a boost ahead of their trip to Ciutat de Valencia as midfielder Sergio Busquets, who had to be taken off injured in the last game, has been passed fit and named in the travelling squad by Ronald Koeman. That means, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati remain the only two injury-enforced absentees for the Catalan giants.

Barcelona ought to continue in the 3-5-2 system that manager Koeman has largely preferred in recent months with Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who enjoyed a brilliant game against Atletico Madrid, lining up in goal.

There should be a change in the three-man defensive unit with Ronald Araujo set to start in place of Oscar Mingueza, who did not do all too well last time out. Gerard Pique and Clement Lenglet should complete the three-man defensive unit for Barcelona who will be eyeing to secure back-to-back clean sheets for the first time since March.

Sergino Dest has seen his form tail off a bit recently but should be given another chance at right wing-back while there is no looking past Jordi Alba on the left, with the Spaniard’s forward forays and link-up with Lionel Messi set to play a key role for Barcelona. The fit-again Busquets ought to take his place as the deepest of the three central midfielders, flanked by Frenkie de Jong and Pedri, who will look to provide the forward thrust from the centre.

Captain Lionel Messi is a guaranteed starter as part of the two-pronged attack. But, the manager might opt to given Ousmane Dembele a run-out on Tuesday night with Antoine Griezmann firing blanks against his former employers at the weekend.

Probable Lineup (4-4-2): ter Stegen; Araujo, Pique, Lenglet; Dest, de Jong, Busquets, Pedri, Alba; Dembele, Messi

Key Stats

  • Barcelona have won eleven of their last twelve away matches in La Liga.
  • Levante, meanwhile, have lost each of their last three games on their home turn in La Liga.
  • Barcelona have scored in each of their 29 La Liga encounters against Levante (86 goals in total).
  • Levante have lost six of their last eight games in La Liga (W1 D1) after having been defeated just four times in their previous 22 contests in the competition (W7 D11).
  • Barcelona have bagged just 10 points from the last 18 available up for grabs in La Liga (W3 D1 L2), having collected 45 from the previous 51 points available in the competition (W14 D3 L0).

Player to Watch

Ousmane Dembele

Just when it seemed like the Frenchman had turned a corner and set to become a regular fixture in the starting XI, a change in formation coupled with Antoine Griezmann’s resurgent run of form has once again reduced Dembele to a bit-part role from the bench. Indeed, he hasn’t started even once in Barcelona’s last four league games, accumulating a total of just 43 minutes in the process.

With Dembele’s contract set to run out in a little over a year, it is important that he is able to prove his worth to this Barcelona said in the remaining fixtures if he is to have a long-term future at Camp Nou. And, it all starts with this crunch game against Levante

Prediction

Levante 0-2 Barcelona

Barcelona were made to toil the last time out they took on Levante. However, heading into Tuesday’s clash, the Granotas have lost six of their last eight games, whereas Barcelona have won 11 of their last 12 away matches (L1). Even though the Catalans were held to a draw last time out by Atletico Madrid, they have enough quality to ease past Paco Lopez’s men, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 2-0 victory for Ronald Koeman & co.

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