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Primera División

  • January 2, 2011
  • • 17:00
  • • Camp Nou, Barcelona
  • Referee: Miguel Pérez Lasa
  • • Attendance: 70000
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La Liga Preview: Barcelona - Levante

La Liga Preview: Barcelona - Levante

Dampened by Athletic Bilbao prior to Christmas, Barca will aim to be back at their explosive best against los Granotes...

As Good As Ever

Barcelona were once again the dominant force in Spanish football over the course of 2010 and will be aiming to recapture their domestic crown in the spring. Pep Guardiola’s men are on course, sitting at the summit of the Primera Division and in good form approaching Sunday’s encounter with Levante.

The Catalan outfit were in terrific form prior to the winter break, though they were stifled surprisingly by Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey just a couple of days before Christmas. Prior to that encounter, Barca were in magnificent form, scoring goals at an almost unprecedented rate – 29 in six domestic matches.

That draw will have served to remind a feverishly competitive Barca side that they are not completely invincible and will act as a prod to induce them to ever-higher levels. Guardiola’s men have had several of these prompts over the course of the campaign, almost inevitably happening at Camp No, where they’ve been held by Mallorca and beaten by newly promoted Hercules.

Another fresh face amongst Spain’s elite will not be treated with any disdain by la Blaugrana, who are aware that a remarkable pace must be kept if they are to remain ahead of Real Madrid in the title race. Bolstered by the addition of Ibrahim Affelay, Barca go into the new year in arguably their strongest ever state.

Fine Margins

Primera Division life is proving to be awkward for a Levante side who have earned the reputation of being a yo-yo club over the last decade, three times ascending to the elite level of the Spanish game only to suffer relegation shortly afterwards.

Once again an intense battle against relegation is on the cards. While fellow new-boys Real Sociedad and Hercules squabble towards the middle of the table, los Granotes are doing their best to tread water just above the relegation zone. Commanding 15 points to date, they are only a couple of marks better placed than 18th placed Malaga, who appear intent on strengthening over the coming month.

Head coach Luis Garcia is unlikely to be handed a significant war chest to bolster his side, so instead he will simply have to work with the tools he already has. He has seen his side score 18 times and concede 26, which are statistics not a great deal different from the Espanyol side who currently occupy fifth, highlighting the fine margins between success and failure at this level.

There was nothing marginal about los Granotes’ Copa del Rey defeat against Real Madrid, which will have shot their confidence ahead of a Primera Division trip to the other of Spain’s ‘Big Two’. Embarrassed 8-0 at the Bernabeu, albeit with a significantly changed side, Levante will hope to show they belong alongside the very best on Sunday night, just as they did when they drew 0-0 with los Blancos earlier this season.


TEAM NEWS

Barcelona

Carles Puyol is the sole injury issue for Barca. Ibrahim Afellay has trained with the squad and has reportedly impressed but cannot debut as he isn't yet registered. Lionel Messi is set to be rested after being excused from training.

Gerard Pique is suspended.

Levante


Felipe Caicedo and Javi Venta have both been ruled out due to injury issues. Ruben Suarez will be able to feature, however.

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Last Five Matches
Odds
Team News
Available Squads
12Víctor ValdésGoalkeeper
22Daniel AlvesDefender
22Éric AbidalDefender
16BusquetsMidfielder
17MaxwellDefender
8Andrés Iniesta LujánMidfielder
14Javier MascheranoMidfielder
6XaviMidfielder
7PedroStriker
-Bojan KrkicStriker
7David VillaStriker
13José Pinto ColoradoGoalkeeper
21AdrianoDefender
6Thiago AlcántaraMidfielder
-Seydou KeitaMidfielder
15Gabriel MilitoDefender
15BartraDefender
1Manolo ReinaGoalkeeper
-Xavi TorresMidfielder
7NanoDefender
-Xisco NadalStriker
5RobustéDefender
2CerraDefender
-Asier Del HornoDefender
8JuanluMidfielder
-PallardóMidfielder
-LarreaMidfielder
11Rafa JordáStriker
-Gustavo MunúaGoalkeeper
8StuaniStriker
-XiscoMidfielder
18BallesterosDefender
-SergioMidfielder
-Rubén SuárezMidfielder
Players to Watch
Xavi
Xavi
Position: Midfielder
Squad Number: 6
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Xavi is one of the front-runners to pick up the Ballon d’Or title when it is announced on January 10, though the Spain midfielder is unlikely to be able to enjoy a 2011 quite as remarkable as the one that preceded it. Last year ended with Xavi scoring and creating a goal in a 5-1 demolition of Espanyol. The creative midfielder, who is not especially noted for his goal scoring, is the oil that allows Barca to run smoothly in the centre of the field.
Manolo Reina
Manolo Reina
Position: Goalkeeper
Squad Number: 1
Games Goals YC RC
0 0 0 0
Manolo Reina will hope for better fortune than Gustavo Munua enjoyed at the Bernabeu. The Uruguayan goalkeeper was left hopelessly exposed by a feeble defence and will still be having nightmares about his visit to the capital. The 25-year-old, on the other hand, kept a clean sheet when faced with the same opponents earlier this term, and a similar performance would be a remarkable feat.
Prediction
Pep Guardiola will want his Barcelona side to show that the pre-Christmas draw against Athletic Bilbao was nothing more than an unfortunate slip. At full strength, it’s tough to see how a Levante side who have been conceding goals freely all season will live with the hosts.

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Editor's Prediction

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