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Barcelona v Levante Live Commentary, 07/01/2018

3 - 0
L. Messi (12)
L. Suárez (38)
Paulinho (90+3)
Camp Nou


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Lionel Messi opened the scoring with a landmark goal, pulling level with Gerd Muller's record of 365 league goals for one club in Europe's top five divisions, while Luis Suarez and Paulinho also found the back of the net as Barcelona restore their nine-point lead at the LaLiga summit.
L. Messi
90' + 3' That's one of the best assists you will see all season, from Messi.
90' + 3' A WORK OF ART FROM LIONEL MESSI! The Barcelona fans haven't had the most enjoyable second half, so Messi decides to give them something to cheer about! The attacker skips beyond two defenders quite impressively, before driving a no-look pass into the centre for Paulinho, aided by a lovely Suarez dummy, and the Brazilian midfield finishes the simple tap-in.
90' Good news for Barcelona as Jordi Alba comes back onto the pitch, obviously making more of that than he needed to. Anyhow, there will be four minutes added on here at the end of the match.
89' Panic on the face of Ernesto Valverde as Jordi Alba goes down and immediately clutches his left knee. The full-back seemed to injure himself there, perhaps over-extending his knee as he fouls Samu near the touchline. This is certainly going to be one for them to monitor closely - it would be a big blow should they lose him for any period of time.
87' STAT: Barcelona have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last 10 league games against Levante, conceding exactly one goal in each of the other three.
José Arnáiz
Sergi Roberto
85' Jose Arnaiz, who has impressed in the cup for Barcelona, comes on to make his first LaLiga appearance for the club, replacing Sergi Roberto for the final five minutes.
Yellow Card
84' Rober has been a bit overzealous since coming on and he's finally booked here. That's been coming.
83' Levante's final change sees Jason replaced by Samu.
82' Vintage Barcelona as they lull Levante into a false sense of security before turning on the pace and style. Messi the architect as he threads a ball through for Gomes, but another terrific challenge from Moore - who has been spectacular tonight - snuffs out the chance!
80' Nearly a disaster! Well Barcelona have been in complete control, but one Levante goal would undoubtedly set up a very tense finish at Camp Nou. Rakitic makes a mess of a pass back for Vermaelen, but the centre-half does so well to recover, sliding in to deny Nano a break and spare his team-mate's blushes.
78' STAT: No Levante player has scored in La Liga since 19th November - their goal against Athletic was an own goal (Laporte).
André Gomes
Andrés Iniesta
76' The obligatory standing ovation for Andres Iniesta, something of a weekly occurrence now, as he's replaced for the final 15 minutes by Andre Gomes. 
E. Boateng
74' Boateng has put in an impressive shift today and fatigue has taken over. He will be replaced by Nano for the final 15 minutes.
72' BIG SAVE! Suarez played through on goal by a lovely ball over the top, and almost seemed to be caught by surprise as the offside flag stays down. He makes a mess of the initial chance, but a dreadful defensive touch presents the ball straight back to him, and he forces Oier into a fearless save at the near post, the keeper doing well to turn behind that ferocious strike from eight yards.
E. Boateng
Yellow Card
70' Yikes! Yellow cards don't get much clearer than that. Boateng grabs the arm of Semedo and tugs, spinning him around like a rag doll before pulling him to ground. That's one way to stop a break.
69' It's been some time since Barcelona last threatened the Levante goal. They're just sort of sleepwalking a bit as we approach the final 20 minutes. They win a corner on 69 minutes and play it short, quickly passing it all the way back to defence as they relieve the pressure themselves.
Nélson Semedo
O. Dembélé
67' Dembele put in a great shift today and he, along with the coaches and training staff, will have to be happy with what they saw in his return. He's replaced here by Nelson Semedo.
66' STAT: Barcelona are unbeaten in their last 25 La Liga home games (W21 D4), keeping a clean sheet in 12 of them.
64' Brilliant save! The match enters a bit of a scrappy period and Levante take advantage, working the ball across to Moore on the break, but the full-back's effort is parries spectacularly by Ter Stegen from point-blank range!
J. Lerma
62' Levante bring Rober on for the final 30 minutes, replacing Lerma.
60' Changes appear to be forthcoming for both sides now. Levante are in need of a spark in attack and they are getting a substitute ready to try and help in that regard, while Barcelona have a handful of subs warming up, but don't appear ready to make a change just yet.
58' Suarez penalised for a foul as he tried to lunge forward and divert a cross into the path of Paulinho, but that proves a pointless endeavor in the end as the ball did not look like it was going to be cleared at the near post. Nonetheless, Barcelona are looking hungry for a third.
56' STAT: Levante have only won one of their last 12 La Liga games (D6 L5), 2-0 against Las Palmas in November, failing to score in four of the last five.
54' Outstanding challenge! Alba and Messi at the heart of things again for Barcelona, carving Levante apart with another stunning one-two, but a desperation last-ditch challenge from Moore is able to snuff out the chance! Alba immediately shouts for a penalty, but that's a good decision from the referee to wave play on.
52' Ivi Lopez has been Levante's catalyst in attack this evening. He's provided the bulk of their creativity and found himself on the end of their best two chances. The attacker is at it again here, bending a terrific free-kick towards the far post, just out of the reach of Ter Stegen, but no one is able to get the decisive touch!
50' Dembele has been heavily involved in possession and has looked very sharp in his first taste of action following a nearly four month injury layoff. Despite how strong he's looked today, you have to wonder how much time he has left before Ernesto Valverde pulls him off. He won't want to overdo it in his first match back.
48' SPECTACULAR GOALKEEPING! Ivi Lopez with some excellent footwork to skip around a defender and open space for a shot, catching all of that effort from 20 yards, but Ter Stegen does brilliantly to get the slightest of hands to the strike to parry over the bar! The big German keeper then collects the ensuing corner amidst a crowd of bodies.
46' Here we go again! Levante get the second half underway...
A thrilling first half comes to an end at Camp Nou and Barcelona come out of it comfortably ahead. Lionel Messi opened the scoring in spectacular fashion, pulling level with Gerd Muller's record of 365 league goals for one club in Europe's top five divisions, before Luis Suarez added a second with a stunning volley, as Barcelona appear on course for another routine three points.
45' There will be one minute added on at the end of this first half.
44' INCHES WIDE! Well that surely would have been the dagger from Rakitic, who guides a lovely effort narrowly wide of the far post from 25 yards. That seemed strike had eyes on it, somehow finding its way through the crowd, but Oier is relieved to see it drift wide.
42' STAT: With his opener, Lional Messi equaled Gerd Muller's record of 365 league goals for one club in Europe's top five divisions.
40' Well chalk that one up to the curse of the commentator. The importance of Levante getting the match into the interval just one goal down was stressed and seconds later Barcelona make it 2-0. It's a bit of a harsh scoreline on Levante, who have played well, but it speaks to the quality of the hosts who have been ruthless in taking their chances.
Sergi Roberto
38' Sergi Roberto is credited with the assist.
L. Suárez
38' THAT MIGHT DO IT! A stunning ball over the top from Mascherano picks out the run of Roberto, who finds Suarez in the centre with a clever first-time ball. The striker controls with his first touch before blasting a stunning effort off the underside of the bar and in with the second, on the half-volley, to quite possibly put this game to bed!
37' An important 10 minutes forthcoming for Levante, who will be desperate to get this game into the break down just the one goal. They have battled hard and, despite Barcelona's impressive second-half record, would still be in it with a chance should they preserve this scoreline into the interval.
35' Play will stop here as the training staff for both sides is forced to come on following a clash of heads in the Barcelona penalty area between Vermaelen and Boateng.
33' NOT QUITE! It wasn't all that far away in the end, but Messi is unable to capitalise from the free-kick as he drives a blistering strike just beyond the far top corner. He struck that with plenty of pace. Had it been on target, Oier would have had no chance.
Yellow Card
31' Sloppy! Levante architects of their own downfall here as a careless giveaway affords Barcelona a chance to break quickly, forcing Sergio Postigo into a rash challenge on Messi just a few yards outside the penalty area. It's one the defender had to make, and he will gladly accept that yellow card.
28' Levante are showing good hustle off the ball to really get after these Barcelona attackers and limit their time to create. They've taken a page out of Barcelona's book with this intense pressure, and are doing very well to execute.
26' STAT: Luis Suarez has scored in five of his last six league games for Barcelona (seven goals) - he had only found the net in two of his previous seven (two goals).
24' NOT QUITE! Big chance for the hosts to double their lead as Dembele surges forward and tries to pick out the bottom corner, but Oier makes a strong save, getting down quickly to get a hand to it. Suarez sprints to get onto the rebound, but he lifts it over the bar from a bit of an awkward angle!
22' It's been an excellent watch through 20 minutes at Camp Nou. Both sides have been bright in attack, keen to push the tempo and get bodies forward, which has led to some excellent viewing from a neutral standpoint. So long as Levante continue with this approach, we should expect plenty more goals today.
20' Injury concern here for Levante as their young striker Boateng pulls up and immediately clutches his hamstring after being chased down by Mascherano. Oddly enough though, and thankfully at that, he seems to be fine to continue after walking it off.
18' INCHES WIDE! Ivi Lopez bounces an effort at goal from 15 yards and it takes a slight deflection to worry Ter Stegen, who dives across at full-stretch but is relieved to see that drift beyond the near post.
16' STAT: Of all teams Barcelona have faced at least 22 times in La Liga history, Levante (22) are the team with the fewest wins against them (1).
14' BIG SAVE! A double chance for Barcelona as they really are piling the pressure on now. Oier makes a world-class stop to deny Suarez from point-blank range before Dembele's rebound is turned aside by Luna!
Jordi Alba
12' Lovely play there from Jordi Alba who provides the assist.
L. Messi
12' JUST LIKE THAT, BARCELONA LEAD! Who else but Lionel Messi? It's that combination again, too. Messi dinks a ball over the top for Alba on the left, who immediately pulls back a return pass and Messi finishes brilliantly, sending his first-time volley off the far post and in!
10' Barcelona starting to up the urgency and are looking brighter in possession. They're starting with the one-two passes and committing more bodies forward, but through 10 minutes now and they have yet to negotiate even a slight opening or manage an attempt at goal.
J. Lerma
Yellow Card
8' Lerma did his best to hide from the referee, jogging back into the penalty area among the crowd of bodies to try and avoid further discipline, butt he referee was able to seek him out.
7' FIRM CHALLENGE! That's a very physical intervention from Lerma who lunges in to hack down Messi on the right flank, arriving late and lifting his legs to ensure he dragged the attacker to ground.
5' It's still the visitors that look the more threatening side in the early going. Another tidy move in attack results in a bit of an opening, but Jason slips at the vital moment and the chance is gone. It's been raining all day in Barcelona, so we might just see more of that as the match wears on.
3' Very bright start from Levante, who win themselves an early corner following pressure applied by Boateng. Barcelona are able to clear the initial threat, but possession is quickly won back by the visitors before Lerma attempts the first shot of the match, lashing his effort over the bar from an incredibly difficult angle.
1' AND THEY'RE OFF! Barcelona in their vintage blue and red home strip, attacking left to right, with Levante in black and white.
Juan Muniz makes four changes to his side from the draw against Leganes. Jose Campana and Jose Luis Morales miss out through suspension and are replaced by Cheick Doukoure and Ivi Lopez. Emmanuel Boateng leads the line after Enes Unal returned to Villarreal, cutting his loan spell with the club short, while young American defender Shaq Moore gets the nod at right-back ahead of Pedro Lopez.
The big news in the Barcelona team surrounds the return of Ousmane Dembele, who returns to the side to start tonight for the first time following a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a thigh injury picked up on September 16. He replaces the suspended Sergio Busuqets in the XI, one of two changes from the win over Real Madrid, with Javier Mascherano replacing Gerard Pique in defence.
SUBS: Fernandez, Tono, Rober, Samu, Coke, Nano, El Id.
LEVANTE (4-3-3): Oier; Moore, Cabaco, Postigo, Luna; Lerma, Lukic, Doukoure; Jason, Lopez, Boateng.
SUBS: Semedo, Pique, D. Suarez, Cillessen, Digne, Gomes, Arnaiz.
BARCELONA (4-3-3): Ter Stegen; Roberto, Mascherano, Vermaelen, Alba; Rakitic, Paulinho, Iniesta; Messi, Dembele, Suarez.
Juan Muniz’s side sit just three points up on the relegation zone as they enter a daunting stretch of fixtures, taking on Barcelona, Villarreal, Real Madrid and Valencia in their next six league matches. At what point do they hit the panic button?
While dreams of trophies dance in the heads of the Barcelona players, Levante find themselves scraping and clawing for positioning at the other end of the table, with their LaLiga status hanging in the balance.
As if Barcelona’s title quest was not looking secure enough, they have brought in reinforcements in the form of Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool – the Brazilian likely the icing on the cake as the Blaugrana chase a 25th LaLiga title.
With both Atletico Madrid and Valencia winning on Saturday, the pressure has stayed on Barcelona to win today and maintain their seemingly insurmountable nine-point lead atop the LaLiga table.
Hello and welcome to Camp Nou for live coverage as LaLiga’s runaway leaders Barcelona look to restore their lead at the summit when they host Levante!