Levante 1-1 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned
Barcelona played Levante to a disappointing 1-1 draw on Sunday night, moving only a single point ahead at the top of the table. Lionel Messi was back in the lineup and running the Catalan attack, but it wasn't enough.
Levante showed heart and desire by refusing to give anything easily to Barcelona. A corner kick gave the home side the early lead, but Gerard Pique restored parity a few moments later.
Though it was not a favorable result for La Blaugrana, Levante will be thrilled with their point.
In this article, we will take the time to look at six things we learned from the match. Feel free to get involved in the conversation below. Shall we begin?
Note: All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com.
Andres Iniesta Was Sorely Missed
This game proved just how important Andres Iniesta is to Barcelona.
The Spanish hero missed the match after picking up a knee injury during Barcelona's clash with Atletico Madrid, and his absence was clearly felt. Though the midfield performed well, Cesc Fabregas and Xavi failed to provide the attacking presence that Iniesta offers.
They are well-known for being creative midfielders, but Barcelona also relies on having a player to link the midfield and the attacking players. That role was nonexistent against Levante.
For long stretches of the game, the Catalans looked unimpressive up front. The forwards seemed to be out of sorts with the midfielders, and very few real chances were created.
At times, Lionel Messi was forced to drop deep to pick up the ball and go forward. This took him away from goal, and Barcelona suffered as a result.
In the end, Barcelona lacked the directness that is needed to score goals. Iniesta doesn't score many goals, but he is vital to the linkup around the box. Fans will be hoping that he returns very soon.
Set Pieces Are Still an Issue
Barcelona's defense has made an unbelievable improvement under Tata Martino. The back line is no longer leaking goals, and for the most part it even looks relatively solid.
However, there are still major issues, and the Catalans cannot be satisfied with the improvements just yet.
La Blaugrana conceded an early goal to Levante just 10 minutes into the game in the most Barcelona-esque way. The hosts whipped in a corner, and Loukas Vyntra rose high to head the ball past Victor Valdes. We have seen it all before.
Despite the Catalans having not conceded many goals this season, they still look vulnerable in set pieces. The defense is unorganized and even looks lost at times, and that just can't happen.
Barcelona are in a serious fight for the La Liga title as well as the Champions League and Copa del Rey. If they plan on lifting silverware at the end of the season, they must figure out a way to solve their set-piece problems.
Levante Have Turned Things Around
Levante should have been relegated last season. They were awful for the most part last year but survived the drop thanks to a wonderful start, which saw them earn important points that came in handy later.
As the current season was getting ready to begin, it made sense that Levante was a favorite to be relegated.
The club had little support in attack and in the midfield and a shaky defense, and Levante rarely looked as if they even cared about the result. But that has changed.
They are now 11th in the La Liga table after earning 24 points through 20 matches. Although they are not playing outstanding football, they have proved that they can grind out results when needed.
This club has silenced critics so far this season and is making a statement. Levante will not be relegated, and they may even be able to continue growing over the next few years.
Escaping relegation was always going to be the goal this season. But the chance of finishing in the middle of the table is something that nobody dreamed of in August.
Messi Can Play in the Midfield
Lionel Messi spent a lot of the game in Barcelona's midfield, trying to get things started. He went on a few runs and even set up some nice chances. But later in the match, he showed what he could really do.
Looking to find a late goal, Martino brought on young striker Jean Marie Dongou, who set up shop in the center of the attack as Messi dropped back. It was the first time that fans have seen Messi function as a real midfielder.
He linked up well with his teammates and looked exceptional going forward. Naturally, the attack suffered from having him playing so deep, but it also opened up several holes in the defense.
Of course, he is not going to turn into a midfielder. Martino opted for the tactic to shake things up and try to find a late winner. But it did show us that Messi could play the role.
He has given fans plenty of reasons to believe that he can become a midfielder later in his career. He has the passing ability as well as the eye for going forward. Honestly, we could have seen a glimpse into Barcelona's future.
The Catalans Have to React
By dropping two points against Levante, Barcelona have put themselves in a dangerous position. Not only do Atletico Madrid have the chance to take the top spot on the table, but Real Madrid are back in the debate as well.
In their last few weeks of La Liga action, Barcelona have let the playing field become equal.
It is now that the Catalans have to react. In their next few games, Barcelona must get solid results and show that they are not going to give up their place at the top of the table. Simply put, they cannot afford to drop points for a while.
La Blaugrana have some tough games coming up against Malaga, Valencia and Sevilla over the next few weeks. It won't be easy, but they must show their best form of the season, especially with Messi back in the lineup.
La Liga is not going to be decided right now. There are way too many games left to be played, but this is the time when clubs start making statements.
Can Barcelona pick things up when they need it the most? To win the league, they have to.
La Liga Just Got a Bit More Exciting
Honestly, who thought the La Liga table would look like this in January? Some may have believed that Atletico Madrid would be in the running, but for most, it was going to be another year with a two-horse race.
Now here we sit with Barcelona and Real Madrid separated by a single point, while Atletico Madrid have the opportunity to take a two-point lead at the top of the table.
After Barcelona and Atletico played to a scoreless draw just a week ago, it still didn't seem as though much would change in the table. Yet Barcelona's 1-1 draw against Levante has now opened up so many possibilities that La Liga is has become a big question mark.
Who will win the league? For that matter, is there even a favorite at this point?
Things have gotten exciting in Spain, and it is safe to say that we are in for one of the most spectacular finishes in recent memory. It is anyone's game at this point, and nobody is going to be running away with the championship.
What did you make of Barcelona's draw? Who are the front-runners to win the La Liga title? Leave your thoughts and comments below!