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Primera División

  • August 18, 2013
  • • 13:00
  • • Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Referee: Carlos Del Cerro Grande
  • • Attendance: 73812
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La Liga Preview: Barcelona - Levante

La Liga Preview: Barcelona - Levante

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The Blaugrana stormed to the Liga title last term and start their defense at Camp Nou, though Lionel Messi is a major doubt as they enter the new season.

Lionel Messi remains a serious injury doubt as Barcelona gets its La Liga title defense under way at home against Levante on Sunday.

The 26-year-old Argentine star suffered a minor thigh strain during the Spanish champions' preseason tour of the Far East, an injury that kept him out of Argentina's 2-1 win over Italy in Rome on Wednesday.

Messi has undergone rehabilitation training with Barcelona's medical personnel in a bid to be fit for selection in Gerardo Martino's first competitive fixture in charge, but with a hectic schedule in the next two weeks, which includes a two-leg Supercopa de Espana final with Atletico Madrid on August 21 and 28, Martino may decide to rest his star player.

Manchester United target Cesc Fabregas is also doubtful after he sprained his ankle in the club's 3-1 preseason victory over a Malaysia XI on Aug. 10.

Nevertheless, history is on the side of Martino - who took over from Tito Vilanova last month - as six of Barcelona's eight previous managers have tasted success in their first league match, with only Pep Guardiola losing in a 1-0 defeat away to Numancia in 2008.

And the new boss could hand a competitive debut to Brazil international Neymar, who signed from Santos in May in a move worth around $75 million.

Levante has never won at the Camp Nou, but it was unlucky in its last visit when a late Fabregas goal consigned them to a 1-0 defeat on April 20.

After a sixth-placed finish and subsequent UEFA Europa League qualification in 2011-12, Levante slipped to 11th last time around. In a bid to improve on that performance, the club brought in Joaquin Caparros to replace former manager Juan Ignacio Martinez.

And Caparros has been busy in the transfer window so far, bringing in the likes of forward David Barral from Orduspor, midfielder Jordi Xumetra from Elche and goalkeeper Javi Jimenez from Murcia.

The new manager may not be able to call on the services of Ruben Garcia and Papakouli Diop at the Camp Nou, though, as both are struggling for fitness. 

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
1Víctor ValdésGoalkeeper
3PiquéDefender
21AdrianoDefender
22Daniel AlvesDefender
6XaviMidfielder
14Javier MascheranoMidfielder
16BusquetsMidfielder
4Cesc FàbregasMidfielder
7PedroStriker
9Alexis SánchezStriker
10Lionel MessiStriker
13José Pinto ColoradoGoalkeeper
15BartraDefender
18Jordi AlbaDefender
8Andrés Iniesta LujánMidfielder
17Alex SongMidfielder
11NeymarStriker
20TelloStriker
-K. NavasGoalkeeper
3David NavarroDefender
5Héctor RodasDefender
12Juan García GarcíaDefender
19Pedro LópezDefender
25Nabil El ZharMidfielder
-RubénMidfielder
-XumiMidfielder
7Sergio da Silva PintoMidfielder
-SimãoMidfielder
-David BarralStriker
-Javi JiménezGoalkeeper
24Loukas VyntraDefender
-Nikos KarabelasDefender
-Issam El AdouaDefender
6PallardóMidfielder
14Pedro RíosStriker
25Andreas IvanschitzMidfielder

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