Barcelona vs. Levante: 6 Things We Learned
The omission of Lionel Messi from the starting lineup, per Football Espana, might have given the away team some hope of a stunning upset, but that notion was soon dispelled when Adriano leveled Loukas Vyntra's opener.
Let's take a look at six things we learned from the match.
Defending Set Pieces
It's inconceivable that we are still discussing this point.
There is much to admire about Barcelona's play in general terms, but defending a set piece still isn't their forte.
They don't excel at simple, basic defending, such as putting a man on the posts, for example.
Frankly, their organisation at the corner for Levante's opener was a disgrace for this level. Vyntra's header may well have been heading wide, yet the marking was calamitous.
It remains a problem without a solution, and that has to be a worry for Tata Martino.
Joaquin Caparros should have words with his back line as well, as Carles Puyol's run into the area went unchecked, and his free header made into the net with aplomb.
The Return of Andres Iniesta
In the absence of Messi and Neymar, Barca still needed a creative spark, and the return of Andres Iniesta provided it for the first 45 minutes.
"El Illusionista" toyed with a flat Levante defence for the majority of the half, and whilst not at his impish best, he provided decent link-up play and superior movement.
Levante's Camp Nou Hoodoo
There can't be too many teams that have a record as bad as Levante's at Camp Nou.
Once again, there was never any question that Barca wouldn't triumph. You have to ask yourself how a team that held Barca to a 1-1 draw only 10 days ago could perform so on Wednesday night.
According to the official Barcelona website, the visitors have lost on every single occasion at this venue, dating back to the 1963/64 season. They have only scored seven goals in that time.
Where Are the Real Cristian Tello and Sergi Roberto?
This was a perfect game for the Barca youngsters to exhibit their best qualities.
In the same way that Alex Song suffers from being no Sergio Busquets, the same applies to Sergi Roberto, who is no Xavi Hernandez.
In order to be considered a long-term replacement for the best midfielder of a generation, Roberto must step up to the plate and dictate games when given the opportunity to do so.
Wednesday night provided just such an opportunity. He didn't take it and was decidedly anonymous for the most part.
In addition, Cristian Tello did nothing to suggest that he is anything other than a speed merchant who supplies the occasional assist or goal.
Not seven days ago, he looked like a world-beater against the same opposition.
What makes his performance even worse is that Levante were well and truly beaten as soon as Adriano leveled for Barca.
With the wind taken from Levante's sails, Tello should have had a field day again.
It's a recurring theme for a player who flatters to deceive, and it is perhaps time for Tata Martino to give serious thought to cashing in.
Continued Excellence from Alexis Sanchez
Alexis Sanchez produced another man-of-the-match performance, according to WhoScored.com.
Before his substitution on 77 minutes, he had done more than enough to suggest his rich vein of form will continue.
Whilst his two goals were fortuitous, they were just reward for his hustling and harrying throughout.
The Chilean's continued excellence is a real bonus for Tata Martino and should ensure he retains his position in the side once Neymar returns to full fitness. Pedro Rodriguez Ledesma is likely to be the fall guy.
Supporters Voting with Their Feet
Supporting a team like Barcelona, which are generally involved in most competitions until the business end, can be an expensive business.
A much more attractive home fixture against Valencia on Saturday, coupled with the assumption that this game would provide easy passage for Barca, no doubt contributed to supporter apathy for this game.
Also, the monsoon that greeted Barcelona earlier in the day and was in full flow at kickoff didn't help.
Even so, a paltry crowd of 25,551 and row upon row of empty seats may give the Barca hierarchy some food for thought.
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