Barcelona vs. Levante: 3 Reactions from Nailbiting Win at the Camp Nou
Barcelona squeaked past Levante with a 1-0 victory at the Camp Nou, thanks to a late strike from Cesc Fabregas.
Despite dominating possession (as they have now for the last 301 games), chances were at a premium and Barcelona didn't look like the free-flowing side that thrashed Zaragoza or Mallorca over the last two rounds.
The Blaugrana were relatively comfortable at the back, with Eric Abidal making his first start since coming back into the team, partnering Adriano at centre-half.
But Barcelona were frustrated by Levante's rearguard going forward. David Villa and Andres Iniesta in particular played well below their usual standards, with the former missing a penalty after a quarter hour and the latter misplacing more passes than he has all season.
All in all, things didn't really go as Barcelona and their supporters expected. What did we learn from the match?
Tello: Still so Much to Learn
After his best spell in Barca colors—culminating in two fabulous goals against Zaragoza last weekend—Tello put in a massively disappointing performance against Levante.
While he managed to maneuver himself into threatening positions and make dangerous runs, the end product never lived up to the good work preceding it.
Tello's confidence seemed shaken after a series of early giveaways, as he then resorted to retreating from deep inside the Levante half when he might have pushed on for a shot or a cross.
Perhaps last week's brilliance was more a product of Zaragoza's defensive woes than anything else, as Tello's impact against Levante was effectively minimized by Pedro Lopez at right full-back.
At his best, Tello is still an exciting, talented young player. But as we've seen this week, at his worst, he can be a black hole for possession and little threat going forward.
Sanchez Still Has Much to Offer Barca
With Lionel Messi not-so-inconspicuously absent, it was left to Alexis Sanchez to bring life to Barcelona's attack late in the match and turn things around for the Blaugrana.
Coming on in the 77th minute, Sanchez didn't have much time to work. But his impact was felt quickly.
He created Barcelona's best chance of the half just a few minutes later. His winding run through the penalty area opened up the Levante defense, and his cross was met at the half-volley by David Villa, who fired it over the crossbar.
It was Sanchez wreaking havoc again just two minutes later when his perfectly weighted pass from the corner of the penalty area found Cesc Fabregas, who managed to settle and squeeze the ball low into the opposite corner past Navas.
It was Sanchez who similarly gave Barcelona a much-needed boost when he scored the crucial opener in a frustrating fixture versus Deportivo La Coruna.
That match was quickly forgotten in the wake of the following one—Barcelona's incredible second-leg comeback against Milan—but it may never happened without the confidence victory against Deportivo. Could his performance against Levante propel them to Champions League victory again?
Abidal Fit and Ready?
Barcelona and Vilanova will take confidence from a strong (if relatively uneventful) 90 minutes from Abidal at centre-half.
The Frenchman was solid in his first start in over 14 months—and that will have supporters and pundits alike speculating about his possible role in the final stretch of the season.
With another league start or two under his belt, will Abidal be ready to face off against Munich at the Camp Nou, or in another Wembley final? Based on tonight's performance, we can certainly hope.