How Barcelona Will Line Up Against Levante

Jason PettigroveContributor IJanuary 18, 2014

Levante will need to close down the lines much quicker than they did on the opening weekend of the season.
Levante will need to close down the lines much quicker than they did on the opening weekend of the season.David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona return to La Liga action on Sunday with a short trip to mid-table Levante.

The hosts will be looking to avenge an opening-day 7-0 defeat, which was the largest winning margin on week one in 58 years.

The Estadi Ciutat De Valencia holds no fears for Barca, who haven't lost there since a narrow Copa del Rey defeat 10 years ago this month. That reverse was in fact the last time Levante triumphed over the current league champions home or away.

With their form patchy at best, clearly Joaquin Caparros will have his work cut out to get a result in this game.

However, only a late Diego Costa penalty at the Vicente Calderon denied Levante a share of the spoils at in-form Atletico Madrid.

If Caparros wants to get anything at all out of this game, he needs his midfield to dictate the play early. Barca roared into a second-minute lead at Camp Nou and by half-time were six goals to the good.

Much of that success came via the centre of the park with Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas and incredibly Lionel Messi allowed far too much time on the ball. Pockets were picked time and again.

If Pape Diop and Simao can cut off Barca's supply line, then Caparros will get his two wide men—Pedro Rios and Pedro Lopez—working Dani Alves and Jordi Alba from the off.

Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez will continue in Neymar's absence.
Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez will continue in Neymar's absence.David Ramos/Getty Images

Both Ruben Garcia and David Barral have more yellow cards than goals. Just five scores between Levante's main striking pair, and less than a goal a game for the entire team tells it's own story.

Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano should hope to have one of their more quieter evenings as a result.

Barcelona's 4-0 first-leg lead over Getafe in the Copa del Rey allowed Gerardo Martino to rest many of his star names for last Thursday's return, but most should be restored to the team to help Barca keep their slim lead over Atleti, who remain right on their coat tails.

After picking up a knock in the bruising draw in Madrid, Martino may continue to rest Andres Iniesta. Fabregas has proved to be a more-than-able deputy, and his passing range alongside that of Xavi could prove instrumental.

Sergio Busquets has barely put a foot wrong again this season. The cover he provides for his defenders is exemplary, and it's not a surprise that he is one of La Liga's best and most consistent performers, per Expect more of the same excellence here.

Messi has been eased back into the fold after his injury, and Martino will unleash him on a barely mobile Levante back four. As the Ballon D'Or runner-up showed in the games against Getafe, he is primed and ready to add to his modest goal tally.

Neymar's ankle injury will see him ruled out for the foreseeable future, but Martino need not worry. The stellar form of late of both Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez will enable Barca to retain the goal threat the Brazilian has brought to the side.