"We lacked aggression in the correct sense of the word," said Levante's coach Joaquin Caparros after last weekend's 7-0 hammering at Camp Nou. "We played like Santos, who came here for a friendly," via Marca.
Regardless of what state of mind the Valencia-based side were in when they arrived in Catalonia, it's fair to say Barcelona were rampant.
With Andres Iniesta and Neymar watching from the bench, Barca pressed high, passed incisively and, orchestrated by Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas, raced into a 6-0 lead by half-time.
Caparros was not surprised to see the old Barcelona return under Gerardo Martino. He was, however, helpless to do anything about it, via Marca:
There are no great changes in Barca's tactics, the team's hunger or the way it pressures you from the front. With Pep in the first years they did the same. For us it was too much to begin with, that's us out of the dentist chair, let the next ones in.
Next into the chair are Bernd Schuster's Malaga, who lost to a Valencia side who managed to muster only one shot on target at Mestalla in La Liga's opening round of fixtures.
It's been a summer of upheaval at La Rosaleda, and it's difficult to know exactly how the German coach will set up his team against the club he played for in the '80s, before jumping ship to Real Madrid.
Fans will want the club to attack, to produce fireworks to mirror the end of Malaga's famous Feria festival this weekend. However, a more pragmatic approach is to be expected—Schuster opted for a 4-1-4-1 against Los Che, something which is likely to stay the same for the visit of the reigning champions.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini left for Manchester City, while Isco, Joaquin, Martin Demichelis and Jeremy Toulalan continued the player exodus which had begun with Santi Cazorla and Salomon Rondon's departures last year.
The focus has since shifted to free transfers, youth and the B team, with three teenagers starting for Los Boquerones against Valencia—Roberto Chen, Sergi Darder and Fabrice Olinga.
Joined by 23-year-old Samuel Garcia, recently promoted from the B team, they are complemented by experienced professionals such as Willy Caballero, Duda, Pedro Morales and Roque Santa Cruz. An injury to captain Weligton can't be disguised as anything other than a huge blow though.
Barcelona will possibly likely find they create most down the middle, particularly if Fabregas is as deadly as last weekend. Darder, Morales and Fernando Tissone are no match for the Catalan's midfield, while Chen and Marcos Angeleri remain an untested central defensive partnership. Full backs Jesus Sanchez and Vitorino Antunes offer slightly more stability to Malaga's back line.
Santa Cruz will likely face the thankless task of endless running for little result up front, but it will take something special for Malaga to reignite the magic moments of last season's Champions League run and beat Barca—although the Feria festival does present the perfect backdrop.
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