After totaling an amazing 50 points in the first half of the season, Barcelona might have to improve upon that mark in the back half to secure a La Liga title. This run will begin with a road match at Levante.
Interestingly, though, these two sides will get quite familiar with each other over the next few weeks, as noted by Fox Soccer Trax:
Worth noting: Barcelona play Levante Saturday in La Liga, then twice more in Copa in the next two midweeks— FOX Soccer Trax (@FOXSoccerTrax) January 16, 2014
Still, Barcelona have to find a way to continue their winning ways after going unbeaten in their past 10 matches.
Who will win?
When: Sunday, Jan. 19
Where: Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Time (U.S.): 1 p.m. ET
Time (U.K.): 6 p.m. GMT
Watch (U.S.): beIN Sport, beIN Sport en Espanol
Watch (U.K.): Now TV, Sky Sports 2
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Odds (via SkyBet): Barcelona (2-11), Levante (14-1), Draw (6-1)
Top Storyline: How Will Barcelona Fare Without Neymar?
Neymar spent the first half of the season living up to his immense hype with six goals and eight assists in league play, plus some impressive performances in other competitions. However, he will now miss about a month with a sprained ankle:
Neymar,'s injury confirmed. He'll be out for three to four weeks http://t.co/bCXZD6wnMU— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 17, 2014
Manager Gerardo Martino indicated that the injury is not too serious, via Dermot Ledwith of ESPN FC, "All we have seen so far of Neymar has filled us with confidence. Thank God it appears to be not as bad as it could have been. He will be out for a spell, but he is OK."
Even if he is able to return within a few weeks, Barcelona will miss him when he is gone. The 21-year-old Brazilian has been outstanding as both a creator and a finisher, and his presence has led to plenty of goals in the absence of Lionel Messi.
Fortunately, Messi has returned to full form after scoring two goals against Getafe in the previous match. Goal.com provides a look at the difference he will make:
Messi's sublime second goal proved he is getting back to his best, as he showed a sharp turn of pace to set off on a trademark run before producing a clinical finish, and he is set to make his first La Liga start for over two months this weekend.
The sight of Messi in full flow would have been enough to strike fear into Levante defenders, as the Barca talisman has scored seven goals in his last five games against the Valencia club.
Adding Messi to the lineup should make up for the loss of Neymar and then some.
Prediction: Barcelona 4, Levante 0
Barcelona have had one of the top defenses in La Liga all year, but something seems to have clicked in the past few weeks as the unit is simply unbeatable. The club has not allowed a goal in four matches, and they will look to continue this clean sheet streak against Levante.
The home side will have a tough time scoring without striker David Barral, who will be suspended for the match after accumulating his fifth yellow card of the year in the last match.
In reality, Levante do not have anyone else who can create opportunities against this dominant defense, and it will take a bad mistake to lead to a goal.
Meanwhile, Barcelona will have no such problem scoring as Messi should lead the high-powered attack. Additionally, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez have been outstanding at finishing this season and should be able to score if they get a chance.
The elite midfield of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets should control possession for most of the match and help create an easy win for Barca.
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