Levante vs. Barcelona: La Liga Preview, Prediction, and Prominent Factors

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2012

Levante vs. Barcelona: La Liga Preview, Prediction, and Prominent Factors

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    When: Sunday November 25, 21:00 CET, 3:00pm EST

    Where: Estadio Ciudad de Valencia (Levante home stadium)

    First-place Barcelona will travel to Valencia on Sunday to take on fourth-place Levante. The Catalan giants have already made history this year by reaching the best start to a La Liga season in history.

    With 11 wins and only one draw, Barcelona have yet to lose a game in the domestic competition.

    Levante has started the year is an astonishing manner. The club was only promoted last season, yet it sits in fourth place behind Real Madrid in the league.

    With this game pegged to be one of the weekend's best, lets take a look at some of the factors going into the match.

Levante at Home

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    Levante has been in impeccable form this season. More so, they have managed to win every home game, save one (via Goal)

    In their last home game, Levante played host to Real Madrid. Though the conditions were dreadful, the side from Valencia gave Real Madrid a run for their money (via Goal).

    Barcelona will certainly be walking into a tough battle as Levante will want to steal a big win at home.

    Not only have Levante been winning at home, but the club has been in dominant form. All of the points they have dropped this season, except against Real Madrid, have been on the road. That being said, the club is one of the best sides at home this season. 

    Home-field advantage is always important. Any normal game would see the home team spurred on by its fans. However, they are playing host to Barcelona. Any time the Catalan giants are in town, you can count on the opposing fans to go crazy.

    If we look back at last year's meetings. Barcelona were able to win easily at the Camp Nou by a score of 5-0 (via Goal). Yet, they struggled at Levante, winning 2-1 after being behind for the majority of the game.

    Though Barcelona are favorites on paper, expect Levante to be courageous and fearless at home. 

Barcelona Will Be Able to Field Its Strongest Lineup

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    Barcelona will have the luxury of being able to field its strongest possible team. 

    The Catalans have no doubt been troubled by injuries this season. Yet the club has been fortunate enough to continue winning without some of its most important players.

    Thankfully, captain Carles Puyol recently returned from a dislocated shoulder (via Goal). This has certainly given the league leaders a boost, as the defense had clearly struggled in the captain's absence.

    Along with Puyol, Goal recently reported that Thiago Alcantara and Adriano have returned to training.

    The return of those two players will give Barcelona added depth going into a crucial time of the season. With the league, Champions League and Copa del Rey all looming large, the club needs as much depth as possible.

    However, it must be mentioned that Barcelona released on their official site this morning, that winger David Villa will miss the game due to an ankle injury. This will no doubt lead to Cristian Tello being handed a start.

    Barcelona will also be able to field such a strong lineup due to their midweek fixture. 

    The Catalan club was able to defeat Alaves 3-0 on the road in Copa del Rey play. With the return leg scheduled for Wednesday, coach Tito Vilanova will have the freedom to rest his stars midweek. With the opportunity for a long rest, expect the stars to all come out strong against Levante.

Lionel Messi Will Decide the Game

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    There is no denying that Lionel Messi has been terrorizing opponents lately. The same fate will await Levante on Sunday.

    Over the last three games for Barcelona, Messi has scored six goals and recorded two assists. The Argentine scored two against Mallorca, two goals and an assist against Zaragoza, and the same against Spartak Moscow (via Goal). 

    With such amazing form from the world's best player, Levante should expect to have their hands full. Looking back at last year, Messi destroyed Levante by scoring a goal with an assist at home, before netting two at Levante (via Goal).

    Any club would be worried about facing Messi, but Levante should be afraid of Messi's menacing form.

    With Messi's history against Levante, coupled with his recent play, expect the Argentine to score and provide an assist on the night. Although, do not be surprised if he contributes more than that.

Prediction: Barcelona 4-1 Levante

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    All factors aside, Barcelona are clear favorites heading into Sunday's action.

    No matter how well Levante have been playing this season, the Catalan club will always seek to dominate possession and the score-line. Levante may opt to be brave at home and go right at the league leaders. If Levante choose this course of action, Barcelona will have more space to score more goals.

    All signs point to a big win for Barcelona. The giants from Catalonia have started to find their best form of the season, and Levante will be just another casualty on the way to extending their undefeated streak.

    But, we have seen the tenacity of Levante when they kept Real Madrid down to the wire in recent weeks.

    With the struggling defense of Barcelona, I expect Levante to be able to score off of a corner at some point, though it may be a mere consolation goal.

    I predict a 4-1 win in favor of Barcelona. Messi will no doubt score, likely more than once, and assist a teammate. Also look for Jordi Alba attacking from the left flank as he sends in passes to Messi.

    Barcelona will win big against Levante and continue to make La Liga history.