Levante vs. Barcelona: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV Info

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Levante vs. Barcelona: Team News, Predicted Lineups, Live Stream, TV Info
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press
Neymar is likely to be rested for the match against Levante.

Levante will be hoping that Luis Enrique rests his major Barcelona stars for their early Sunday La Liga clash at the Estadi Ciutat de Valencia.

The hosts are struggling with injuries, and per Betinf.com, the likes of Juanfran, Pedro Lopez, Victor Casadesus, Jose Mari and Ruben Garcia will all be missing.

This is a fixture that's hard enough for Levante to get anything from under normal circumstances, let alone when they're not at full strength.

Not since 2004 have they posted a win over the Blaugrana, and on the last five occasions these two have met, Barca have scored at least four.

With an incredible 7-0 win over Valencia still fresh in the minds, Rubi and his staff will have their work cut out to keep the score down.

His only possible ray of light is Barca's gruelling schedule. By the end of the month, they'll have played 17 games, and so the option to rotate in this game and the Copa del Rey semi-final second leg is almost too good to resist.

The visitors should still have enough about them to get a positive result and keep the advantage over nearest chasers Atletico Madrid, but it might be a lot closer than normal without Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez in the lineup.

Records don't necessarily interest players or management, but securing the same will at least see the 2015/16 vintage go down in Blaugrana folklore.

It is actually Enrique's 100th game in charge, and no manager in the history of the club has had as good a start after their first century of games. Per David Salinas of Sport

No-one has won as many games as Luis Enrique (79), no-one has scored as many goals (300) and no-one has conceded less (72). His Barça side is a machine.

It’s true that he has the likes of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar helping him along, but it’s also true that he has known how to get the best out of his squad. His management is outstanding. 

A quite astonishing total and a run of form that should continue in this particular fixture. Indeed, another game unbeaten and this Barca will equal the all-time club mark of 28 games unbeaten, set when Pep Guardiola was in charge.

Date: Sunday, February 7

Time: 11 a.m. GMT/6 a.m. ET

Venue: Estadi Ciutat de Valencia, Levante, Valencia, Spain

TV Info: Sky Sports 5, Sky Sports 5 HD (UK only)/beIN Sports 1 (US only)

Live Stream: Sky Go app (UK Only), beIN Sports Connect (US only)

Form Lines

Last 6 Results
Levante Barcelona
L 1-3 vs. Sevilla
W 7-0 vs. Valencia
W 3-2 vs. Las Palmas
W 2-1 vs. Atletico Madrid
L 3-4 vs. Celta Vigo
W 3-1 vs. Athletic Club
W 2-1 vs. Rayo Vallecano W 2-1 vs. Malaga
L 0-1 vs. Atletico Madrid
W 2-1 vs. Athletic Club
L 0-1 vs. Malaga
W 6-0 vs. Athletic Club

WhoScored.com

Predicted Formations

this11.com
Predicted Levante and Barcelona formations and line ups.

Although Rubi has preferred a 4-3-3 in many of the games played in this league season, the Levante manager really has no option but to go with a five-man back line in a 5-3-2 formation.

The recent history between these two sides effectively makes this a damage-limitation exercise, but there is enough of a personnel change by Barca to give the hosts something to hold on to.

Barca will, of course, go with the tried-and-tested 4-3-3. The hosts might be bottom of the league at the start of play, but this is a very winnable game that keeps the visitors on track to win back-to-back league titles if the status quo remains.

Claudio Bravo returns in goal for the visitors, and a back four of Dani Alves, Marc Bartra, Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu will need to have their wits about them.

Giuseppe Rossi and Jose Luis Morales will keep chipping away at the coal face and pressing the Barca defence high.

They'll need to be joined in attack by Verza and Jefferson Lerma if they wish to garner any kind of success here.

The Levante wide men will be doing the lion's share of graft as they shuttle along the wide areas helping out their full-backs should the need arise.

With a tenacious Sergi Roberto and vibrant Aleix Vidal taking up similar positions for Barca, the midfield battle could be won and lost in that part of the pitch.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Aleix Vidal has settled in well at Barcelona.

Javier Mascherano gets another chance to play in the defensive midfield role he executes so well for his country, and with opposite number Simao Mate hardly likely to venture forward, we could see Masche striding forward in the open expanse of green at every opportunity.

A brick wall of Tono, David Navarro, Zouhair Feddal, Angel Trujillo and Ivan Lopez has the ability to frustrate Munir El Haddadi, Sandro Ramirez and Arda Turan.

The movement of Vidal and Roberto is particularly crucial in pulling players out of position, which in turn enables Barca to play quick ball into the danger areas.

If such tactics aren't working to any great degree, Enrique may prefer to have at least one of "MSN" in reserve to bring on if required.

Diego Marino has the potentially thankless task of trying to keep the score down.

Player to Watch  

Giuseppe Rossi is still only 29 years of age and football fans everywhere should be delighted at his return.

Serious injury has meant that his career has never quite hit the heights promised in the early days, but the forward still packs a punch and knows where the goal is.

A 55th-minute strike in his first full appearance for the club against Sevilla is a fine way to kick-start life at Levante, and as can be seen in the video below, an affinity with the supporters is already there:

What Rossi lacks in pace, he more than makes up for with a keen eye for the chance, and whether taking on Barca's defence himself or setting up strike partner Morales, Rossi could become a real thorn in the visitors' side if he is allowed time and space.

He hinted what the game plan might be when speaking to AS, saying:

Getting to play against such a great team is something we need to enjoy. We know it will be tricky to get a result but we have to try. When I played against them with Villarreal we always put them under pressure. 

You have to press them and keep as much possession as possible. When you don’t have the ball you end up running more.

Especially on the edge of the box or surrounding areas.

With Rubi playing such a defensive style in this game, the onus will be on Rossi to ease the burden on the back five.

To provide an outlet will be a thankless task at times but a necessary one.

Key Battle

Manuel Queimadelos Alonso/Getty Images
Ageing David Navarro will need to use all of his experience against a lively Sandro Ramirez.

Rubi is forced into using vice-captain David Navarro as the third centre-back of a five-man back line.

The 35-year-old lacks pace, but his physicality and experience more than makes up for the former. 

Against Sandro Ramirez, he'll be better served by sitting slightly off the striker, allowing the defenders either side to squeeze up and put pressure on the ball, with Navarro acting as sweeper.

Barca are likely to have far more success if balls are played in behind and over the top for Sandro to run on to rather than playing into his feet, meaning the striker has to turn before delivery.

VI-Images/Getty Images
Sandro will benefit if balls are played into the passing lanes.

There simply won't be enough space in those congested middle areas in which the forward can go about his work with any great success.

Crosses from the wider areas and slide rule passes through the lanes are likely to be far more effective. 

Navarro needs to stay on his feet as much as possible and time his tackles to perfection because an early transgression will as good as rule him out of the rest of the match, his physical game moribund. 

Odds

Levante win 1069-100

Barcelona win 25-139

Draw 621-100

Pre-match odds courtesy of Odds Shark.

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