Levante - Barcelona Preview: Blaugrana gunning for 11th consecutive Liga win
The Catalan giants face a tricky test against the Granotas, who are still within touching distance of the Champions League places despite their midweek defeat at Sporting Gijon
By Karthick Arvinth
Lopez, Ballesteros, Cabral, Juanfran
Valdo, Barkero, Botelho
Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Adriano
Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta
Fabregas, Messi, Sanchez
Levante trio Javi Venta, Javier Farinos and Arouna Kone are minor doubts for Saturday's visit of Barcelona after sustaining knocks in the midweek defeat at Sporting Gijon.
Defender Asier del Horno is out with a thigh injury, but Juanlu could make his first appearance for the club since December after recovering from a broken fibula.
Barcelona have been boosted by the return of long-term injury victim Ibrahim Afellay, who has been cleared for match action and is likely to be included in the squad travelling to Valencia.
Dani Alves and Cesc Fabregas are set to return from injury and suspension respectively, although defender Gerard Pique is a doubt.
Meanwhile, Barca have announced that left-back Eric Abidal is recovering well after undergoing a liver transplant on Tuesday.
||DID YOU KNOW?|
- Levante have won three of their last four Liga matches at the Ciutat de Valencia.
- The Granotas' last home victory over Barcelona was a 1-0 triumph in the Copa del Rey in January 2004.
- Xavi Torres played for the Barcelona reserve team between 2007-09 and made a couple of appearances for the first-team under Pep Guardiola in May 2009.
- With Tuesday's victory over Getafe, Pep Guardiola has equalled Frank Rijkaard's record of 112 wins in La Liga as Barca coach. Only Johan Cruyff has won more (183).
- If he plays, Andres Iniesta (pictured right)will be making his 400th appearance in a Blaugrana shirt.
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Top 3 Predictions
Levante UD 1-3 Barcelona
- 14.13 %
Levante UD 0-3 Barcelona
- 13.35 %
Levante UD 0-5 Barcelona
- 11.67 %
|Copa del Rey (ESPC)||29 Jan 2014||Barcelona 5 - Levante UD 1|
|Copa del Rey (ESPC)||22 Jan 2014||Levante UD 1 - Barcelona 4|
|La Liga (LIGA)||19 Jan 2014||Levante UD 1 - Barcelona 1|
|La Liga (LIGA)||18 Aug 2013||Barcelona 7 - Levante UD 0|
|La Liga (LIGA)||20 Apr 2013||Barcelona 1 - Levante UD 0|
|1 Mar 2014||Levante UD 2 - Osasuna 0||LIGA|
|21 Feb 2014||Valladolid 1 - Levante UD 1||LIGA|
|15 Feb 2014||Levante UD 1 - UD Almería 0||LIGA|
|9 Feb 2014||Real Sociedad 0 - Levante UD 0||LIGA|
|1 Feb 2014||Levante UD 0 - Rayo Vallecano 0||LIGA|
|12||Juan García García||Defender|
|12||Gustavo Daniel Cabral||Defender|
|-||Abdel Kader Ghezzal||Striker|
|13||José Pinto Colorado||Goalkeeper|
|8||Andrés Iniesta Luján||Midfielder|
The former Real Sociedad midfielder's defence-splitting passes and Arouna Kone’s industry will be key to unlocking the Blaugrana defence. The home side are likely to be starved of possession of the ball, but they can exploit the space left open by Barca’s marauding full-backs to launch speedy counter-attacks – a tactic they have executed well against other teams this season.
|Andrés Iniesta Luján|
The midfield maestro should become the eighth player with most appearances for the club soon, as he is just one short of Jose Ramon Alexanco and three behind Joan Segarra, who lie ninth and eighth on the all-time list respectively. Despite the arrival of Fabregas and the emergence of Thiago, the 27-year-old remains a vital cog in Barca’s passing carousel, and he will look to raise his game heading in to key clashes with Chelsea and Real Madrid over the coming week.
Barca need to be wary as the hosts’ counter-attacks and doggedness can trouble them, but, in the end, the Catalans have been in majestic form since losing at Osasuna in February and, ominously for their rivals, appear to be peaking at the right time.
Times In BST
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