Date and Time: 10th April, 9:00PM CET
Venue: Ciudad de Valencia
Competition: La Liga
Referee: Jose Luis Munuera Montero
In the world of football, no opposition can be taken for granted. A person who considers a lower placed team as an inferior team is either new to the sport or one who has failed to understand football at its very essence.
However, there often come times in a manager’s career when he must prioritize games. Choosing one game over another does not imply that the opposition is superior but just places emphasis on the importance of the outcome of the clash.
Xavi Hernandez is in a similar situation. Barcelona play Levante and Eintracht Frankfurt with less than four days gap between them.
However, with the Europa League now marginally more important to the Catalans, the manager must look to prioritize the result midweek over that at the weekend.
Rotations can be expected when the Blaugranes take on Levante tomorrow, considering that several players have had an exhausting week.
What to expect from Levante?
The Valencia-based side are on 22 points in La Liga after playing 30 games. With 17th placed Mallorca six points ahead of Levante, Alessio Lisci’s side stare relegation at the end of the season.
In 30 games in La Liga, Levante have conceded 58 goals whilst scoring only 33. They have a conversion rate of 10% in front of the goal and have maintained only seven clean sheets so far.
Dani Cardenas will likely start in goal for the hosts, looking to maintain a second consecutive clean sheet. The Spanish goalkeeper made two critical saves inside from inside the box against Villarreal and must maintain his form if Levante want any points tomorrow.
Since his appointment in December, Lisci has preferred a five-man defence. The formation includes three centre-backs to stay low, and two full-backs to push up on the wings.
Rober Pier, Sergio Postigo and Ruben Vezo are the three expected to start as centre-backs against Barcelona after a solid display last week.
Pier and Postigo produced eight clearances, three blocked shots and three interceptions against Villarreal. Vezo started on the bench in the last game but will start owing to Martin Caceres’ injury.
Jorge Miramon could start at right wing-back and go up against Jordi Alba on the night. The left wing-back position is expected to be covered by Enric Franquesa who was one of Levante’s poorer players against the Yellow Submarine.
The midfield three on the night will be Gonzalo Melero, Pepelu, and Nemanja Radoja. While Pepelu’s role is to slot into the defensive line and hold the fortress, the other two players in midfield are actively involved in forward runs and counter attacks.
Jose Luis Morales is arguably the hosts’ most dangerous weapon and will start as one of the strikers against Barcelona. The second striker on the night could be Roger Marti, who has a goal and an assist in his last two games.
Probable Levante XI: Cardenas; Miramon, Postigo, Pier, Vezo, Franquesa; Melero, Pepelu, Radoja; Morales, Marti
What to expect from Barcelona?
The midweek clash against Eintracht Frankfurt will be a nagging thought in Xavi’s mind ahead of Sunday’s trip to Valencia. Needless to say, several regulars could start on the bench as the manager uses the chance to test his bench strength.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen will start in goal on the night. The German had a good game midweek and single-handedly prevented the hosts from scoring an opener in the first half. Needless to say, his form in on the rise since Xavi arrived.
Gerard Pique suffered an injury to his thigh tendon in the last game and will be unavailable for tomorrow’s clash. In his absence, Clement Lenglet and Eric Garcia could start as the centre-backs.
Araujo needs to be kept fresh ahead of the Frankfurt second leg and it will not be surprising to see him start from the bench.
Dani Alves is not registered for the Europa League and did not feature in the last game. Given that the Brazilian will be unable to play in the next game too, his starting position against Lisci’s side is almost ascertained. Jordi Alba will start at left-back owing to a lack of backup options.
In midfield, Sergio Busquets and Pedri could start from the bench. In their place, Nico Gonzalez and Gavi will start and look to make a statement performance.
The midfield will be completed by Frenkie de Jong at defensive midfield who was rested for most of the game in Germany.
Rotations are expected in the forward line too. Ferran Torres has been invaluable to Xavi’s side this season but has been grossly overused.
Given that the youngster needs a break, Ousmane Dembele could play on the left-wing against Levante. The right-wing position will be manned by Adama Traore while Luuk de Jong could replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the striker.
Probable Barcelona lineup: Ter Stegen; Alves, Garcia, Lenglet, Alba; Nico, Frenkie, Gavi; Traore, Luuk, Dembele
Jose Luis Morales
Morales is one of the few Levante players who has good form going in his favour. The striker has scored three goals in his last four games, including a brace against Villarreal last week. Overall, he has scored nine goals and provided one assist this season in La Liga.
The veteran prefers to stick close to the left-flank but drifts centrally whenever presented with a chance. With the objective on Sunday being to capitalize on the counters, his precise finishing will come in handy for the manager.
Levante previous games: WLDLW
Levante 2-0 Villarreal | La Liga
Osasuna 3-1 Levante | La Liga
Levante 1-1 Espanyol | La Liga
Athletic Club 3-1 Levante | La Liga
Levante 3-0 Elche | La Liga
Barcelona’s previous games: WWWWD
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-1 Barcelona | UEFA Europa League
Barcelona 1-0 Sevilla | La Liga
Real Madrid 0-4 Barcelona | La Liga
Galatasaray 1-2 Barcelona | UEFA Europa League
Barcelona 4-0 Osasuna | La Liga
Barcelona 3-0 Levante | La Liga 2021-22
Levante 3-3 Barcelona | La Liga 2020-21
Barcelona 1-0 Levante | La Liga 2020-21
Barcelona 2-1 Levante | La Liga 2019-20
Levante 3-1 Barcelona | La Liga 2019-20
- Barcelona are unbeaten in their last fourteen games.
- The Catalans have not lost to Levante in their last four meetings.
- Levante have not maintained a clean sheet against Barcelona in their last 20 meetings.
- Barcelona have won 15 out of their last 20 games against Levante. (3L, 2D)
- Barcelona have scored 15 goals in their last five games in La Liga.
The game will be cagey in the first half with the Catalans fielding several bench players. However, the rhythm is expected to improve as the half progresses. Moreover, the impact of substitutions will be invaluable for Xavi’s side. Expect a win for Barcelona, but not an easy one by any means.
Barca Universal prediction: Levante 1-3 Barcelona