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Deportivo La Coruña
April 14, 2012
• Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia
Referee: José Antonio Teixeira Vitienes
• Attendance: 25000
That's it from me, Luke Matthews tonight. Thank you for all your comments via Twitter. Keep an eye out as I will be uploading the match report for the game in just a second or two. Barca close the gap on Madrid to four points once again ahead of next weekend's Clasico and what a game it promises to be! Anyways, I'm off folks, Buenas Noches!
Well, well, well ...I wonder what Mourinho will have to sat after that Barca penalty. There didn't seem to be much in it with Cuenca and Botelho both pulling at one another,
FULL-TIME! Barca hold on to record a priceless victory through a Messi double.
90' + 3'
Levante are camped out in the Barca box yet time is running out!
There will be three minutes of added time in this one.
Juanlu is on for Barkero, his first appearance of this year after recovering from a broken leg.
Barca are playing possession football in the latter stages of this one. If there's one team you do not want to come up against when you need a goal, it's the Catalans.
Messi is brilliantly by Cuenca yet Ballesteros is alert to cut out the danger. Even if Levante lose this, they can hold their heads up high.
The home team are looking to get back into this game as Barkero slings a set-piece into the box. However, the away side defend the danger.
Abdel Kader Ghezzal
Levante look a little shell-shocked and that penalty could have massive ramifications for their hopes of securing European football this season.
Quite a few of you are getting in touch with me via Twitter now to remind me you predicted Messi hat-tricks. Well, with 15 minutes to go you wouldn't put it past the little man.
That really could be a massive moment in the title race with Barca now looking set to close the gap on Madrid to four points with Clasico to come at Camp Nou next week.
Penalty Goal Messi
GOAL BARCELONA! Messi steps up to slam the ball in the top corner, sending the keeper the wrong way, giving his side a priceless lead. In doing so he levels with Ronaldo for the Pichichi with both men on 41 Liga goals for the season.
Yellow Card Juan García García
Yellow Card Valdo
PENALTY TO BARCELONA! Cuenca and Botelho collide in the box and it seems the linesman is the one who flags for the penalty. Massive moment in this season!
Yellow Card Gustavo Daniel Cabral
Nope. It's not the best set-piece from Messi who curls the ball over the crossbar. We're heading into the final 20 minutes with the score 1-1.
Barca have a free kick on the edge of the box. Can they take the lead here?
Yellow Card Iborra
Despite being far from their best tonight, you have to fancy Barcelona to go on and win this one as they now surely have the momentum.
Assist Alexis Sánchez
GOAL BARCELONA! The Catalans step up the tempo and grab a superb goal. Messi plays a lovely one-two with Alexis before slamming the ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box. Messi now equals the record held by Ronaldo and Mariano Martin for scoring in 10 consecutive Liga games.
The away side are resorting to efforts from range now as Cuenca's shot from 25 metres out dribbles with of the goal.
BETTER FROM BARCA! Adriano cuts on to his supposedly weaker right foot before firing an effort at goal from the edge of the box that is superbly tipped around the post for a corner by Munua.
Barca are getting plenty of men forward but are really struggling to find space with Levante making sure they have plenty of men back.
Decent defensive play from Mascherano who slides Valdo before then clearing the danger with the home side threatening.
Pedro is off now for Barca as Iniesta comes on to great applause from the Levante supporters to make his 400th appearance for the Catalans. Can the World Cup winner be the man to unlock the home team's defence?
Andrés Iniesta Luján
Lovely footwork from Cuenca to make his way into the Granotas' penalty area yet the winger's cross is blocked by Cabral.
LEVANTE COME CLOSE! Kone's pace is devastating as he takes the ball off Thiago. The Ivorian slides the ball to Barkero who then looks to find the on-loan striker with the goal gaping. However, it's a poor pass as Puyol clears the danger.
On Twitter Akabuo Chuks has predicted that Pep told his men to try and penetrate Levante a little more centrally and avoid crossing into the box while Zlatan Abu thinks the 41-year-old simply pointed out the massive psychological blow the team would suffer with defeat tonight. Keep your thoughts coming to me via Twitter @LukasMaf.
Barca are camping out inside the Levante half so far in the second interval. This could be a LONG 40 minutes or so for the Valencia-based side.
My guess is only as good as yours here but it could be that Xavi has picked up a slight knock and Guardiola is looking to protect his midfield maestro ahead of the Chelsea meeting.
We are back underway for the second half and there has been a change for the away side with Cuenca coming on for Xavi. I'm guessing quite a few of you will be annoyed with that change.
Akabuo Chuks and Bassem Zabaneh are both predicting wins for Levante tonight while Chidi thinks the Blaugrana will step up their game in the second period and cruise to a 3-1 win.
On Twitter, quite a few of you seem to think Iniesta may be set to be introduced in the second half with Pedro your favourite to make way. I suppose we will see in a moment.
HALF-TIME! Levante lead 1-0 at the break courtesy of Barkero's penalty. Barcelona have enjoyed the majority of possession yet have struggled to create clear-cut chances with the Granotas' defence standing firm. Can the home side keep up this intensity in the second half? Make sure you don't go anywhere as the next 45 minutes could make or break Barca's title challenge!
45' + 1'
There will be two minutes of added time in the first-half.
Yellow Card Pedro Botelho
Keep your thoughts on the game coming to me via Twitter @LukasMaf. I want to get your opinions on what Guardiola will be saying to his players at the break.
Barcelona have enjoyed 71 per cent of possession so far tonight compared to Levante's 29. Still, it is the home side who lead 1-0.
Messi wriggles clear of a few challenges yet takes himself a little too wide of the goal as his eventual effort is lashed into the side-netting.
Frustration setting in now for the away side as Thiago fouls Iborra who was running clear of his own penalty area.
Pedro's cross is easily headed clear by Cabral. Barca have crossed the ball into the box on a number of occasions tonight; a strange tactic considering Ballesteros and Cabral's prowess in the air.
Yellow Card Adriano
With Adriano and Valdo colliding, Pedro Lopez is given plenty of space to charge down the right wing. The full-back makes his way to the edge of the box before dragging his effort wide.
Looks like some of you are a little unsure of Barca tonight. Rami Darwich and El Capitan both predict draws while Zlatan Abu is unhappy with the Barca starting XI, in particular picking out Thiago who he believes to have been below standard recently.
Levante counterattack in numbers yet lose momentum when Kone is unable to get the ball out of his feet in the box. Iborra eventually shoots from range yet Mascherano is on cue to perform an excellent sliding block.
Possession wise it's all Barcelona yet apart from the two Thiago headers, Guardiola's men are yet to really trouble the Levante goal. Can the Catalans grab an equaliser before the break?
Messi attempts to whip a cross into the penalty area yet the home side's defence deal with it comfortably, clearing the danger.
Another free kick awarded to Barca as Ballesteros is adjudged to have had his leg too high whilst challenging Fabregas.
Hanna Bassil on Twitter still believes Barcelona will come back to win 3-1 tonight. Well, Real Madrid did exactly that earlier tonight, going 1-0 down to a penalty versus Sporting. I want to get your thoughts on the penalty folks. Was it clear as day or do any of you think it was harsh?
Thiago is brought down by Xavi Torres 30 metres from goal. What can the Blaugrana do here?
So against the run of play, Juan Ignacio Martinez's men are in front against the reigning Liga champions. At the moment Levante would move into fourth spot.
Penalty Goal Barkero
GOAL LEVANTE! Barkero steps up to coolly slot the ball down the centre of the goal as Valdes dives to his left. Could this be the end of Barca's title hopes?
Yellow Card Busquets
PENALTY! Barkero's ball into the box is dropped by Valdes and Juanfran's effort is blocked by the hand of Busquets who is then booked.
Levante win a corner as Pedro Lopez deflects the ball off Adriano's leg. What will the home team create here?
Remember to keep your thoughts and opinions on the game coming into me via Twitter @LukasMaf.
ANOTHER THIAGO HEADER! Messi's free kick is a good one as Thiago ghosts past his marker to get his head to the ball from 12 yards out. However, it's straight down the throat of Munua who holds on to the ball.
Messi takes a corner from the right and quite frankly, it's rubbish. Juanfran smashes the ball to safety with ease.
A few of your thoughts from Twitter now. Khaled Saifi is expecting a Messi hat-trick tonight while Zinedine Hassan is willing to bet his girlfriend that Messi will get his name on the scoresheet. I bet your girlfriend would love you for that! Saying that, I think it's a pretty safe bet for yourself to make.
I've been really impressed with Ballesteros so far tonight. The guy is a man-mountain! Oh, and he's nearly 37 - the third oldest outfield player in La Liga behind Mallorca's Marti and Racing's Munitis.
Pedro drills an inviting ball along the six-yard line yet there is no Barcelona player attacking the ball. I guess that's one of the negatives of not lining up with an out-and-out striker.
The home side are struggling to get hold of the ball at the moment which is hardly surprising. However, no goals as of yet.
THIAGO SHOULD SCORE! Alexis crosses the ball to Thiago who somehow manages to screw his header wide of goal from a matter of yards out.
Good defending by Pedro Lopez and Ballesteros who double up on Messi as the Argentine smashes his effort over the bar from 12 yards out.
Xavi's corner is dangerous yet it somehow skids along the six-yard line with no player able to make contact with the ball. Early warning signs for Levante.
A few niggly fouls coming Barcelona's way in this one as Pedro has the first opportunity at goal; the attacker's shot being beaten away by Munua.
Neither side have been able to settle with the ball at the moment as Levante look to hassle their famous guests.
The home side get us underway here at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia as Barca immediately gain control of possession.
There is to be a minute's reflection for Piermario Morosini, the Livorno midfielder who tragically collapsed and died of a heart attack today during his side's game against Pescara.
Both sets of players are now on the pitch as they go through the usual formal pleasantries. Levante are in their red and blue striped shirts with blue shorts while Barca wear a ghastly green kit.
One man who will be looking to score tonight is Messi. The Argentine could equal (the original) Ronaldo's Liga record of scoring in 10 consecutive games. Mariano Martin also achieved the feat for Blaugrana back in 1943.
This won't necessarily be a walk in the park for Guardiola's men though, oh no. Levante are currently fifth and a win for the home team would provisionally move them into the Champions League spots with Malaga not in action until tomorrow.
Little bit of news from the Bernabeu...Madrid have secured a 3-1 win versus Sporting to extend their lead in the Primera Division to seven points. Barca really do have no margin for error tonight; only a win will do to keep their title hopes realistically alive. Pressure.
Remember folks, you can let me know your thoughts and predictions for tonight's game on Twitter @LukasMaf. Oh, and don't forget to follow me of course!
The big team news tonight for Barca is that Iniesta is rested ahead of Wednesday's Champions League first leg semi-final against Chelsea, so it looks like the 27-year-old may need to wait to make his 400th appearance for the Blaugranas. Fabregas returns from suspension to replace him while Thiago comes into the team for Cuenca. Levante make five changes from the side who lost 3-2 to Sporting midweek.
Barcelona (3-4-3): Valdes; Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano; Busquets, Thiago, Xavi, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Alexis Subs: Pinto, Alves, Pique, Tello, Cuenca, Montoya, Iniesta
Levante (4-2-3-1): Munua; Pedro Lopez, Ballesteros, Cabral, Juanfran; Xavi Torres, Iborra; Valdo, Barkero, Botelho; Kone Subs: Navas, Serrano, Juanlu, Ghezzal, Suarez, Farinos, Navarro
So with the introductions out of the way here come the teams...
Hello and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of the Saturday evening Liga encounter between Levante and Barcelona from the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia. I'm Luke Matthews and I'll be guiding you through tonight's action. With Real Madrid currently leading Sporting Gijon, it looks like Pep Guardiola's men will be required to close a seven-point gap at the top of La Liga with victory tonight.
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