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April 20, 2013
• Camp Nou, Barcelona
Referee: Alberto Undiano Mallenco
• Attendance: 70957
That's all from me for tonight guys and girls. Thank you very much for joining me! Good bye.
FULL-TIME: BARCELONA 1-0 LEVANTE The Blaugrana left it late to secure all three points at Camp Nou, as Levante frustrated their opponents with some resolute defending. Fabregas was the man that broke the deadlock to make it 1-0, after some good build-up play from Alexis. Barcelona may have won but the big story of the night was Abidal completing a full 90 minutes for the first time since having his liver transplant last year.
90' + 3'
Levante fail to make the most of a late corner despite Navas pushing forward for the set piece and the referee decides that is that and blows the final whistle.
90' + 2'
Credit to Song tonight, by the way. I haven't been convinced with him in a Barcelona shirt but he's put in a good display this evening in the centre of midfield.
90' + 1'
Xavi takes it short and plays it to Alves, as the home side look content to keep the ball with the final whistle just minutes away.
Barca have a free kick over on the right as we head into added time.
Yellow Card Pedro López
NAVAS KEEPS OUT FABREGAS' EFFORT FROM DISTANCE! The Levante goalkeeper can hold his head high after his performance tonight. He is second choice at the club but he's pulled off a handful of fine stops, not least the latest one which has stopped Fabregas from scoring his second of the evening.
STAT: Fabregas has now scored four in four league games against Levante since his move to Barcelona. That is more than he has managed against any other Liga side.
Just as I was doubting Barcelona they go and score through Fabregas. With Levante looking incapable of testing Valdes, that will probably be enough to secure all three points for the Blaugrana.
Assist Alexis Sánchez
Goal Cesc Fàbregas
GOALLLL!!! FABREGAS SLIDES THE BALL HOME FOR BARCA!! The attacker did very well to control the ball and fire it into the bottom right corner from 18 yards after being set up by a fine assist from Alexis.
This is not good preparation for Barcelona for Wednesday's tie with Bayern. They have looked devoid of ideas going forward for large chunks of this game.
BIG CHANCE! Villa fires high over the crossbar from 12 yards out after the ball fell invitingly to him after some persistent play from Alves on the right.
Fabregas tries to connect with Xavi's searching high pass but there is just too much on it and the former Gunner runs out of pitch as the ball goes out for a goal kick to Levante.
There is the third and final change for the Blaugrana as Alexis replaces Tello.
Xavi is starting to influence the game after being introduced shortly after half-time. The experienced midfielder has played some fine passes to Alves in the past few minutes, and also fashioned that shooting opportunity I mentioned a few moments ago.
Barkero's set piece evades everyone though, as the ball bounces out for a goal kick to Barcelona.
Fabregas throws Diop to the floor inside the Barca half and Levante have a free kick 45 yards from goal on the right-hand side.
A divine touch from Xavi allows him to trick his way past Diop 25 yards from goal but his subsequent shot is an insult compared to the initial control, as the ball flies into the stands high above Navas' goal.
Just the 700 passes completed by Barcelona tonight. All that possession means nothing though when they are yet to score.
A dodgy cross from Alves on the right somehow finds its way to Tello on the left side of the Levante box, and he hits a first-time volleyed cross into a body of players on the penalty spot before Garcia manages to hack the ball away.
Nabil El Zhar
Xavi picks out Pedro with a fine lofted pass out to the right, but the substitute is shepherded inside by Gomez and the move runs out of steam.
Barca have made that second change - Pedro has come on for Thiago.
Alves has resorted to a speculative shot from a very long way out, and it is little shock that the Brazilian's effort is way off target.
Yellow Card Alex Song
It looks like Vilanova is going to make another change as his team continue to struggle to create clear chances in front of goal. Pedro is the latest player to warm up on the sidelines.
ANOTHER foul from Barcelona. Song is shown a yellow card after hurtling into Diop for not the first time tonight.
Levante threaten on the left through Acquafresca. The attacker threads a pass round Abidal to El Zhar who has moved in from the wing, but Adriano does well to get across and steal the ball back for Barcelona.
STAT: The last time Barcelona failed to score in a league game at home was when they drew 0-0 with Sevilla in October 2011! Javi Varas was the hero that day as he saved a penalty from Messi late on.
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Vilanova makes his first change of the evening as Xavi replaces Iniesta. With Wednesday's clash with Bayern Munich firmly in his thoughts that is probably a wise decision.
Levante defend well on the right-hand side as Iniesta looked to ghost into the box with the support of Tello and Montoya on his left.
Risky defending from Navarro! The Levante defender manhandles his former Valencia team-mate Villa on the edge of the box as the striker tried to latch on to a through ball from Thiago. The referee didn't have the right angle to see that infringement and so play was waved on despite Villa's protests.
You can tell Barcelona aren't performing well as Camp Nou is silent. The fans are clearly not too impressed with their team's performance so far this evening.
Barcelona have been sloppy since the break and have conceded a number of needless fouls. Thiago is the offender on this occasion - he catches Barkero as the Levante midfielder tries to push forward with the ball.
Navas dives on the ball inside the Levante box after a neat Barcelona move involving Iniesta and Tello resulted in the latter whipping a cross into the box from the left.
A foul from Fabregas gifts Levante a chance to slow the pace of the game down. The former Arsenal man has been very quiet this evening, and it would not be surprising if he were to be replaced before too long.
Song dispossesses Diop and the Levante midfielder stays down following the challenge. Barcelona sportingly kick the ball out of play so he can receive treatment, before play can be carried on.
ACQUAFRESCA HAS THE BALL IN THE NET.... but it's disallowed! The Italian strays into an offside position inside the Barcelona box and though the whistle blows he controls the ball and fires it past Valdes. Sadly for the striker play is brought back though for the free kick to the home side.
We're back underway for the second half over in Barcelona...
Should things continue as they are in the second half Vilanova has got a pretty good bench to turn to... Pinto, Bartra, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Alexis. You'd struggle to find a better one anywhere in the world!
HALF-TIME: BARCELONA 0-0 LEVANTE The Catalan giants have dominated the opening 45 minutes, but have failed to find the back of the net. Villa had a glorious chance to put them ahead from the spot after the referee awarded Barca a fortunate spot kick for a supposed foul from Simao on Iniesta, but his tame effort was kept out by Navas. The Levante goalkeeper produced a handful of strong stops over the course of the half to keep the score at 0-0. Barcelona will be bemused as to how they are not leading here!
And there is the half-time whistle! It is goalless at Camp Nou at the break.
ANOTHER DECENT STOP FROM NAVAS! The Levante shot-stopper keeps out Villa's deflected effort from the edge of the penalty area to keep the score level.
Acquafresca is flagged offside, which brings a limp end to a rare Levante foray into the Barcelona half.
STAT: Barcelona have bossed the game in this first half. They have had 80 per cent of possession and have completed over 400 passes!
Barca are appealing for another penalty! The ball did appear to strike Diop's arm as he tried to clear it upfield but again that would have been a very harsh decision.
GOOD MOVE FROM BARCA!! Song sends a brilliant ball over the top to Thiago who nods it back nicely to set up Villa. The former Valencia man hits the ball towards goal on the half volley but it is stopped en route by a diving block from Juanfran.
Villa and Fabregas are not doing much at the moment! The former fails to attack an enticing cross from the right from Alves, and the striker's poor positioning brings a howl of frustration from his coach Vilanova.
A well-struck rising effort from Thiago is blocked well by Vyntra as Barcelona continue to press in search of an opening goal.
Some very good defensive play from the attack-minded El Zhar stops Iniesta inside the Levante box, just as the attacker was preparing to shoot.
Yellow Card Diop
FINE STRIKE FROM ALVES! The Brazilian fires the free kick at goal from 40 yards which forces Navas into a smart stop low to his right.
Shortly after playing Tello through with a great chipped pass Thiago wins a free kick for his side after being caught by Diop.
Iniesta shrugs in despair after Levante are awarded a free kick as El Zhar goes tumbling to the floor under a challenge from the Barca maestro, but the referee ignores his protests and gestures again for a free kick for the visitors.
A clever move between Iniesta and Alves nearly creates a goalscoring chance for Barcelona, only for Fabregas to spoil their good work by handling the ball inside the Levante box.
STAT: Levante have won just one of the six matches they have contested since the sale of Obafemi Martins to Major League Soccer outfit Seattle Sounders in March.
Iniesta hits an effort at goal from long range but it is straight at Navas, who happily gathers the ball in his arms.
Levante's lack of cohesion is allowing Barcelona to play what looks like a 2-5-3 formation with Montoya and Alves bombing down the flanks.
Tello sprints at the Levante defence on the left before cutting a pass back towards Villa that is swept up by David Navarro for the visitors and hammered upfield.
A cross comes in from El Zhar but Valdes manages to grab the ball just before it reaches Acquafresca.
That Iniesta-Tello relationship is coming along nicely for Barcelona. The quick attacker seems to know exactly when and where to make the right runs for Iniesta to find him.
Iniesta dissects Levante's backline with a fine pass to Tello and the youngster shows great pace to get to the ball and flick a cross towards Fabregas. Loukas Vyntra does very well to get there ahead of Fabregas and hit the ball away.
That was probably a fair outcome, as it never looked like a foul from Simao in the first place!
Penalty save K. Navas
NAVAS SAVES VILLA'S PENALTY!! Levante's Costa Rican goalkeeper produces a great save to keep out Villa's spot kick and is alert to get up and parry away Fabregas' follow-up.
Missed Penalty David Villa
PENALTY TO BARCELONA! Andres Iniesta's first real involvement of the game is to win a penalty for his side after being knocked to the floor by Simao. That looked very harsh!
STAT: Levante are on an eight-match winless run away from home in La Liga (D3, L5).
SAVE FROM NAVAS!! Fabregas gets to the byline on the left and digs out a cross that hangs in the air above the penalty spot before being nodded at goal by Thiago. The midfielder struggled to get enough power on his effort to trouble Navas though, and the Levante goalkeeper smothered the ball easily on his goalline.
We've got a few 3-0 Barcelona predictions over on Twitter. On the balance of play in the opening minutes of this game a scoreline like that would not surprise me. Levante have barely had a sniff so far!
Alves gestures wildly at the referee after Levante are given another free kick. The Brazilian should be quite though as he was clearly climbing all over the back of Ruben Garcia.
Levante win a free kick after Martin Montoya is adjudged to have fouled Nabil El Zhar. It is a farcical set piece though, as Jose Barkero just punts the ball straight to Victor Valdes.
Song and Fabregas exchange passes for Barcelona inside the Levante half, but the move is broken up by a good challenge from Pedro Lopez at right-back.
Barcelona have completed 85 passes in seven minutes!
It will be interesting to see how many of this Barcelona line-up start against Bayern on Wednesday night. I guess five. What do you lot think? Send me your thoughts via the comments box on the right or on Twitter @charliefscott.
STAT: With 98 goals scored in their 31 matches so far, the Blaugrana boast the best attack in the Primera Division.
Barca win a corner on the left after a powerful run by Tello but Keylor Navas catches the set piece comfortably under little pressure from any Barelona players.
That is marvelous calm defending from Abidal! The Frenchman has started his first game in over a year as if he has never been away. As Robert Acquafresca tried to latch on to a through ball inside the Barca box Abidal glided across, took possession, and then played a fine ball forward.
We are underway at Camp Nou! Barcelona have completed about 20 passes in the first 20 seconds...
Fire your scoreline predictions over to me on Twitter @charliefscott. There will be a virtual high five for anyone that guesses right. What more could you want, eh?
Elsewhere in that Barca XI, Thiago retains his place in midfield after his phenomenal performance last weekend. He is joined by Andres Iniesta and Alex Song. Abidal partners Adriano at centre-back while Cristian Tello, Cesc Fabregas and David Villa complete a three-pronged attack.
I'm delighted to see Eric Abidal is back in Barcelona's starting line-up. The France international has been a substitute for the Catalan side's last two games, but this is the first time he has started a match since February 2012. The cultured defender spent a long time on the sidelines after undergoing a liver transplant, but he seems to be fully fit now, and it is great to see. What a story!
SUBS: Munua, Rodas, Ballesteros, Valdo, Michel, Rios, Marti
LEVANTE (4-5-1): Navas; Lopez, Vyntra, Navarro, Juanfran; El Zhar, Diop, Barkero, Simao, Ruben; Acquafresca
SUBS: Pinto, Bartra, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Alexis
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Valdes; Alves, Abidal, Adriano, Montoya; Thiago, Song, Iniesta; Tello, Cesc, Villa
With a Champions League date with Bayern Munich on the near horizon Vilanova may well rest players for this evening's clash, with Lionel Messi still ruled out with that thigh injury. Stay tuned to find out both team's starting XIs...
Tito Vilanova's side have been rampant in the league, and with just seven rounds of games left in this campaign are sitting comfortably clear in first place, having lost just twice all season.
My name is Charlie Scott and I'm the man tasked with guiding you through the game as it unfolds over in Barcelona. As always feel free to get in touch with your views on the match. To do so go to Twitter @charliefscott, or post your thoughts in the shiny box to the right of this commentary.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of all the action from Camp Nou as Barcelona host Levante in La Liga.
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