Barcelona will be aiming to reclaim the second spot in the La Liga standings when they lock horns with Levante away from home this weekend.
Barcelona will travel to Estadio Ciutat de Valencia this Sunday night as they gear up to take on UD Levante in Matchweek 31 of the 2021/22 La Liga, hoping to continue their unbeaten run.
Following their narrow 1-0 victory over Sevilla last weekend, Barcelona are undefeated in their last 14 La Liga encounters. While they had moved to the second spot, Los Nervionenses’ 4-2 win over Granada on Saturday has meant that the Catalans have slipped to third. Xavi Hernandez’s side, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Eintracht Frankfurt in the UEFA Europa League in midweek, will be aiming to return to winning ways and reclaim the second spot.
Meanwhile, Levante find themselves mired in the relegation battle as they sit second from the bottom, having collected just 22 points from 30 games. The Granotas are seven points away from safety and look doomed to end up in La Liga 2. However, they secured a shock 2-0 win over Villarreal last time out at home. And manager Alessio Lisci will hope that his players can repeat the trick this weekend when Barcelona come visiting.
Barcelona defeated Levante 3-0 the last time these two sides met in September last year, with Memphis Depay, Luuk de Jong and Ansu Fati scoring. Ahead of their latest encounter this weekend, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at both teams.
Team News & Tactics
— Levante UD 🐸 (@LevanteUD) April 9, 2022
Levante will be without the services of Carlos Clerc, Martin Caceres, Jorge De Frutos and Shkodran Mustafi, all of whom miss out due to injuries. The hosts will line up in a 5-3-2 formation and look to defend deep and frustrate Barcelona while trying to hit them on the counterattack.
25-year-old Dani Cardenas will guard the goal for Levante, while Rober Pier, Sergio Postigo and Ruben Vezo line up as the three centre-halves in front of him. Marcelo Saracchi and Jorge Miramon should start in the full-backs slots. The pair will be expected to stay compact for the most part but will have the license to spring forward when Levante try to hit Barcelona on the break.
Pepelu and Nemanja Radoja will anchor the midfield for Levante and look to keep their Barcelona counterparts quiet over the course of the game. Gonzalo Melero should take up the third slot in the centre of the park and look to provide the forward thrust when Levante are in possession.
Club captain Jose Luis Morales, who scored twice in the win against Villarreal, will spearhead the attack for Levante. He will be partnered with 31-year-old Roger Marti, who has five La Liga goals this season.
Expected Lineup (5-3-2): Cardenas; Miramon, Vezo, Pier, Postigo, Saracchi; Pepelu, Radoja, Melero; Marti, Morales
Barcelona have six players missing for their trip to Levante as Gerard Pique has become the latest player to pick up an injury. He joins Sergino Dest, Memphis Depay, Sergi Roberto, Ansu Fati and Samuel Umtiti on the sidelines. Xavi will have an eye on the Europa League quarter-final second leg next week while picking the team.
🎙 Xavi: "Levante are a difficult opponent, similar to Eintracht. We need the three points. It will be a complicated match" pic.twitter.com/S90H99dZFm
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) April 9, 2022
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who has shown improvement in his performances, should continue in goal. Dani Alves, who is back in contention after missing the midweek game due to ineligibility, should start at right-back while there is no looking past Jordi Alba on the opposite side. Ronald Araujo could be given a rest with Eric Garcia and Clement Lenglet forming the centre-back pairing.
Sergio Busquets should continue at the base of the Barcelona midfield, from where he will look to act as the conduit between the two halves of the pitch. Frenkie de Jong should also hold on to his place and add the drive and forward thrust from the centre. In-form star Pedri, though, could use some rest, given his injury issues this season. In his place, 20-year-old Nico Gonzalez should get the nod.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is another player who can do with a break after his subpar display against Frankfurt. In his place, Ferran Torres should move into a central role, although Luuk de Jong is an option. Ousmane Dembele and Adama Traore ought to be the two players on the flanks, who will be the primary chance-creators for Barcelona.
Expected Lineup (4-3-3): ter Stegen; Alves, Garcia, Lenglet, Alba; de Jong, Busquets, Nico; Adama, Torres, Dembele
- Barcelona have the best current unbeaten run of any side in Europe’s top five leagues (P14 W10 D4). They have won their last six La Liga matches and kept a clean sheet in the previous three.
- Levante won 2-0 over Villarreal in their previous La Liga game. They have not won back-to-back matches in the competition since July 2020.
- Barcelona forward Ousmane Dembele has provided ten assists in just 13 La Liga appearances this season.
- Levante attacker Jose Luis Morales, who scored a brace in his side’s 2-0 win over Villarreal, has nine league goals this term. He is just one goal away from becoming the first Levante player to reach ten goals in four different seasons in La Liga in the 21st century.
- Barcelona striker Luuk de Jong has scored three goals in five games against Levante in La Liga – his most against the same opponent in the competition.
Player to Watch
The Spanish international has made a notable impact since arriving from Manchester City during the January transfer window. While his finishing still needs some polishing, Torres has become a key player for Xavi’s Barcelona, contributing seven goals and five assists from just 16 appearances in all competitions.
The 22-year-old came to Barcelona’s rescue against Eintracht Frankfurt, scoring the equaliser in the midweek clash to salvage a 1-1 draw for the team. On Sunday, he will be expected to step up and deliver in front of the goal again as the Catalans look to reclaim the second spot in the table.
Levante 1-3 Barcelona
Levante have shown some signs of a fight of late and did well to secure a much-needed win over Villarreal. However, they will be coming up against a Barcelona side that are starting to click under Xavi Hernandez and are proving to be a difficult team to stop. So, it is hard to see Sunday’s game go any other away than a win for the Catalans. They might miss a clean sheet, however, with Gerard Pique injured and Ronald Araujo likely to be rested.