Levante 1-4 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned

Paul WilkesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2014

Levante 1-4 Barcelona: 6 Things We Learned

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    Barcelona were shocked at the weekend when the two teams met at the same ground in the league.

    Lionel Messi made his first start of 2014 as he looked to improve his fitness and was therefore naturally low key.

    In this article, we take a look at six things we learned from the second clash of the trilogy.

La Liga Is a Priority for All Teams

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    You can understand the reasoning behind Barcelona resting players.

    The two-legged Copa del Rey games, the league and the Champions League mean that the full squad is needed to ensure they remain competitive in all competitions.

    But you can question Joaquin Caparros' mentality. They have shown what they are capable of against a full-strength Barca, so it makes you wonder why it wasn't a stronger first 11.

    Levante sit in 12th, eight points from the relegation zone and nine points from a Europa place. A run of results could send them in either direction.

    The home side made seven changes for the game, whilst Barca made eight.

Defending Set-Pieces Is Barca's Achilles' Heel

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    For the second time in four days, Levante scored the opening goal against Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia. Once again it was a set-piece.

    This time it wasn't the effort from the initial cross, but the failure to react and clear the second ball properly.

    Former Liverpool winger Nabil El Zhar was the one to profit. He has a habit of big-game goals this season. He has netted against Real Madrid and grabbed a brace against Espanyol already in this campaign.

Sale of Thiago Has Given Sergi Roberto His Opportunity

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    The 21-year-old had featured in just 12 games before 2013/14.

    This was the 15th consecutive appearance for Sergi Roberto since November 10 with seven starts and eight substitute appearances.

    He has been given this chance due to the club's poor management of Thiago Alcantara's contract last summer.

    The now-Bayern Munich midfielder played 81 games in his last two seasons at the Camp Nou.

    Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was present to keep tabs on the youngster, per the Metro, but Barca must be cleverer to ensure the future of their midfield stays this time around.

     

Levante Were Unlucky

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    The home team were a threat throughout the first half as they broke with speed and intelligence.

    They must have been full of confidence as they headed into the tunnel at the break. This Barcelona team were there for the taking.

    Games can often change in an instant, and the unfortunate Juanfran own-goal was a classic example of this.

Tello's Pace Can Cause Havoc

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    Levante right-back Alberto Nagore was booked after only 11 minutes for a rugby-like tackle on Cristian Tello, whom he had already been beaten comfortably beforehand.

    The winger has seen his game time limited this season. Pedro, Alexis Sanchez and Neymar are all ahead of him in Gerardo Martino's thinking.

    His speed on the flanks was clearly an issue for the Levante back-four, but this intensified in the second half when he didn't have the ball.

    Tello's runs off the back of the defenders was the key to all four of Barcelona's goals, with the wide man getting a hat-trick.

Messi Has Found His Range

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    It was Lionel Messi's 400th appearance for Barcelona and his second start inside a week.

    The Argentine is naturally not up to full match fitness, as this will increase over the coming days.

    With a number of Levante players closing him down and making it difficult for him to motor into his trademark runs, Messi chose to supply the killer passes.

    Dropping very deep, he could twist and turn to find a yard, then release the perfectly weighted assists to Tello just inside the full-back.