A dire La Liga season needs a turnaround now that the Champions League group stage is over. Barça in desperate need to get back to winning ways turn hosts this matchday. Here’s the preview of the match between Barcelona and Levante.
Date and kick-off time: Sunday, 13th December 2020, 21:00 CET
Stadium: Camp Nou
Competition: La Liga, Matchday 13
Referee: Ricardo De Burgos Bengoetxea
Barcelona return to La Liga action after a disappointing outing in the last matchday of the UEFA Champions League. Despite winning five games out of six in the group, the club finished second and are in contention for the difficult draws for the next round, come Monday. But, the fixtures are a couple of months away, leaving other games to worry about and focus on now.
Barça host Levante in the matchday 13 of La Liga after two consecutive defeats in the two games. Barcelona come into this fixture on the back of a 3-0 loss vs Juventus. But the visitors come into this with a 3-0 victory over Getafe which saw the later get two red cards. Levante’s recent win eclipses their five consecutive one all draws.
Eight teams stand in between the two sides in the table, with Barça in 9th and Levante in the relegation zone sitting 18th. Despite the large difference in places, only three points separate the two clubs, with the Catalans closer to relegation than to the top of the table. Such is the bizarre state of La Liga and Barcelona this season.
The Catalans’ injury list has shortened, aside from the long-term absentees. Phillipe Coutinho has trained with the team recently despite the news of him taking personal leave for the birth of his child. For the visitors, Enis Bardhi, José Campaña, Cheick Doukouré all miss out due to various issues. The absence of Campaña, unarguably their best player, is a hard one for the Valencian side.
What to expect from Barcelona?
The pressure is on Barcelona and Ronald Koeman after two upsetting defeats in consecutive games. Not only has the defence let the team down again, but the attack has also failed to compensate for it. The comical errors, the inability to convert half-chances, and the overall instability of the team have been responsible for the dubious form this season.
“Riqui Puig has done well in the last matches. It depends on the performance of the players looking for the best eleven. We will see what can happen tomorrow.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game Presser
Riqui Puig was the silver lining in the loss to Juventus midweek and should get his deserved start here at the Camp Nou. La Masia graduate is a differential player who could play those line-breaking passes and create from the deep. One of the significant advantages of having the youngster is to have Lionel Messi, the team’s best finisher, up the field. With the Argentine dropping deep due to the lack of creative spark, more defenders pile on in front of him, making it hard to pass through even for him.
Puig needs, and deserves more playing time. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Attacking issues aside, Ronald Koeman has to address the elephant in the room, the defence. Usually, the team suffers from the lack of collective effort while defending, but recently individual errors are popping up more frequently than desired.
While everyone in the backline is very capable on the ball, the basics have been missing. The Dutchman, being a defender himself, should work on this with the team before the title chances fade. They should concentrate on winning duels with the Levante forwards, as they are experts at shaking of defenders.
What to expect from Levante?
Paco López’s Levante were on a struggling run of form with one win in ten games, and five consecutive 1-1 draws. But, last week, they turned around their fortunes with a three-nil thumping of Getafe. Although the two red cards helped their cause, the Valencian club were the better team, creating the best chances. The runners in behind exploited the defensive line of Getafe with balls over the top.
Against Barça, they might choose the famous defend deep and use the ball efficiently ploy with their ability to be comfortable in possession. They have not scored a goal on the counter-attack this season, but use transitions to good effect. The set-pieces have given them varying results, as they have scored twice, and conceded thrice with them. Away from home, they have scored seven times this season, with five of them coming from open-play.
“Levante game is one that we play at home against a team that surely comes to squeeze us. We have to be aware of the circulation of the ball.”Ronald Koeman | Pre-game presser
Paco López uses a 4-4-2 primarily with two strikers who run and work hard. With three of their attacking players getting on the scoresheet, they come into this game with some confidence. Levante’s goalkeeper Aitor Fernández was one of the best keepers in the league last term and can drop in an excellent performance this game. With Barça’s attack faltering to finish, he might be even harder to unlock.
Player to watch
Roger Marti is the biggest threat against Barcelona. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Images)
The 29-year-old Spaniard has three goals and two assists this season in less than 500 minutes to his name. With a goal in his last outing, he would be raring to go again. He can take shots often and can place the ball effectively away from the goalkeeper. Dani Gomez could continue to be his partner for this game too, and together the duo could cause havoc to the Barça defence.
Previous games: LLWWW
Barcelona 0–3 Juventus | UEFA Champions League
Cadiz 2–1 Barcelona | La Liga
Ferencvárosi 0–3 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Barcelona 4–0 Osasuna | La Liga
Dynamo Kyiv 0–4 Barcelona | UEFA Champions League
Position in La Liga
14 points in 10 games
4 wins, 2 draws and 4 losses
20 Goals Scored, 11 Goals Conceded
+9 Goal Difference
Previous games: WDDDD
Levante 3–0 Getafe | La Liga
Real Valladolid 1–1 Levante | La Liga
Levante 1–1 Elche | La Liga
Levante 1–1 Deportivo Alaves | La Liga
Granada 1–1 Levante | La Liga
Position in La Liga
11 points in 11 games
2 wins, 5 draws, 4 losses
13 Goals Scored, 15 Goals Conceded
-2 Goal Difference
Barcelona 2–1 Levante | La Liga 19/20
Levante 3–1 Barcelona | La Liga 19/20
Barcelona 1–0 Levante | La Liga 18/19
Barcelona 3–0 Levante | Copa del Rey 19/20
Levante 2–1 Barcelona | Copa del Rey 19/20
- Barcelona have won their last 15 home matches against Levante in all competitions..
- Barcelona are undefeated in 34 of their last 36 home matches (LaLiga).
- Levante are undefeated in their last 6 matches (LaLiga).
Injured: Gerard Pique (knee), Ansu Fati (knee), Sergi Roberto (hamstring), Ousmane Dembele (Strain)
Marc-André ter Stegen
Dest · Araújo · Lenglet · Alba
Busquets · de Jong
Messi · Griezmann · Puig
Coach: Ronald Koeman
Injured: Enis Bardhi, José Campaña, Cheick Doukouré
Coke · Vezo · Postigo · Clerc
Frutos ·Vukcevic · Melero · Rochina
Marti · Gomez
Coach: Paco López
After two defeats in a row, a team of Barça’s calibre should and must be able to come back. An earnest performance is necessary to show that the team is still capable of going the distance in at least one competition. Levante, on the other hand, will look to continue their winning fortune with a win over one of the big guns. An intriguing battle awaits the fans.
Barça Universal’s Prediction: 3-1 win for the Catalans.
Predicted Barcelona lineup against Elche — Trincao to start, Lenglet benched
Barcelona continue to fall; the draw to Cadiz could not come at a worse time for a squad healing from humiliation and devastation. When they had the ideal chance to close the gap on Atletico Madrid, the Blaugranas once again fell meekly to inflict damage to themselves
However, hope still lives on in the league. It may be faint, but it is a reason for Barcelona to fight on. The league continues with the clash against Elche on Wednesday. Here is how Barcelona can lineup against Elche.
Hopes in the league are getting dire indeed, as Barcelona continue to dig their own Grave. With yet another opportunity to close the gap squandered, Marc Andre ter Stegen will certainly start in goal. After all, this is not the time for rotation
The centre back crisis worsens day by day. Clement Lenglet has been largely scapegoated, however, the errors in the team are far beyond an individual level. On the night, Gerard Pique and Oscar Mingueza would be the ideal pairing, given Araujo’s yet impending return to action. As for Samuel Umtiti, it seems after his performance against Sevilla, his time with Barcelona is limited.
At left-back, Jordi Alba will continue to rack up another start as Koeman looks to get guaranteed points on the board. The Spaniard’s abilities will need to be utilised to the fullest for the Catalans to turn their season around.
One of the positives from the game against Cadiz was the positive performance from Sergino Dest. On the back of that stellar attacking display, there seem to be no doubts on the USMNT star’s start on Wednesday.
After starting two games in a row, Sergio Busquets might well be rested on the night. The Spaniard would ideally be replaced by Miralem Pjanic, who could orchestrate the Catalan attack from the shadows. Though the Bosnian has received backlash for his extensive sideways passing, he has hardly put a for wrong when given the chance.
The midfield would ideally be completed by Frenkie de Jong and Riqui Puig. The Dutchman has more or less kept up his great start to the year, and the renwed role sees him in the box more often than not, thereby providing his side with a target man.
Riqui, on the other hand, would be a like for like replacement for Pedri, who has been criminally overused. The La Masia star provides a similar output, and it’s one risk that might be worth taking for the manager
It is criminal how Fransisco Trincao has pulled up stellar performances when given a chance, yet not rewarded with a start. Tonight could be the night for the winger, as he could start on the right-wing.
Lionel Messi will continue to lead the side from the front, acting as the centre forward and playmaker as he always does. The Argentine’s performance has a gigantic effect on the outcome, and once again, he will prove to be decisive.
Antoine Greizmann will complete the lineup on the left-wing. The Frenchman has seen a sudden low after a great start to the season. This is the time for him to put a stop to the lows and once again welcome the highs.
Griezmann · Messi · Trincao
Puig · Pjanic · de Jong
Alba · Pique · Mingueza · Dest
Ousmane Dembele as always will be a worthy weapon on the bench for Ronald Koeman. His speed, agility and dribbling could well unlock the tight defence.
Pedri too will likely be called up in the second half. Barcelona with the 18-year-old are a totally different beast. The difference is conspicuous and startling! He will be decisive on the night.