Barcelona vs. Levante: Winners and Losers from La Liga Game

Rob Lancaster@RobLancs79Featured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2015

Barcelona vs. Levante: Winners and Losers from La Liga Game

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    Barcelona continued their perfect start to the new Primera Division season with a 4-1 victory over Levante.

    Marc Bartra broke the deadlock, Neymar added a second and Lionel Messi bagged a brace for an experimental Barcelona side.

    However, it wasn't all plain sailing against Levante.

    For the fourth straight league game, they failed to score in the first half while a mistake by Barca goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen led to the visitors scoring at Camp Nou.

    Messi also missed out on a hat-trick as he failed to convert a penalty, firing a second spot-kick over the bar.

    Still, with a midweek game to come against Celta Vigo, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique was able to rest some of his stars.

    B/R has picked out the winners and losers from Sunday's game.

Winner: Lionel Messi

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    Lionel Messi likes playing against Levante. He scores against most teams, but the forward seems to like picking on poor Levante.

    According to OptaJose, "Lionel Messi has scored in his last five league games against Levante at Camp Nou (nine goals)."

    The Argentina international netted twice on Sunday, the first of them a penalty. His second was a fine solo effort in the closing minutes that rounded out the scoring.

    Add in an assist for Barcelona's first goal, scored by Marc Bartra, and it is no wonder WhoScored.com named him Man of the Match.

    However, he wasn't quite perfect on the night, as will be revealed in the next slide.

Loser: Lionel Messi's Penalty-Taking Stats

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    Messi could—and really should—have finished the game with a hat-trick.

    Having already converted one attempt from the spot, the Barcelona captain blazed another penalty high over the bar.

    It is not rare for him to struggle from 12 yards. MisterChip tweeted, "Messi has taken 81 penalties in his professional career (club and country, including shootouts): he has missed 17 (21 percent)."

    However, according to journalist Dermot Corrigan on Twitter, his club boss is not too concerned, "Luis Enrique in press conf 'Missing penalties doesn't make Messi human. He scored twice & assisted another. Very little human about Messi.'"

    It's unlikely any player at Barcelona is going to suggest to Messi that he steps down from penalty-taking duties anytime soon.

Winner: Luis Enrique

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    Before the game against Levante, Barcelona manager Luis Enrique stressed his squad was strong enough to cope with the demands of a long season.

    Despite losing Rafinha to a serious injury in the UEFA Champions League draw with AS Roma, he told the club's official website, "What we have is a squad that has to overcome problems and negative situations during the season."

    Luis Enrique proved his point with the team he selected to face Levante, leaving Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez on the bench.

    He instead gave opportunities to some of the club's youngsters, including Munir El Haddadi and Sandro Ramirez.

    With the possibility of playing seven games in 22 days, Barcelona will benefit from not only resting some of their stars but also keeping the entire squad active.

Loser: Munir and Sandro

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    Neither Munir nor Sandro quite made the most of the chance to impress against Levante.

    While the pair of young forwards did little wrong, they also didn't do a whole lot right, either.

    Playing wide on the right, Munir did have the ball in the net in the second half, only for his effort to be correctly ruled out for offside.

    Journalist Dermot Corrigan commented on the 20-year-old, "Watching Munir at moment seems mad he was in Spain full team 12 months ago [even with fear of losing him etc]. Looks very low on confidence.

    As for Sandro, who was used centrally as the spearhead of the forward line, he failed to convert a rebound before the break from a tight angle.

Winner: Marc Bartra

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    Marc Bartra was one of the fringe players who did seize the opportunity to impress Barcelona manager Luis Enrique.

    The defender was there when called upon in defence but was more importantly the unlikely scorer of the home side's first goal.

    Lionel Messi chipped over a cross to Bartra, who controlled the ball using his chest before volleying it past Levante goalkeeper Ruben from close range.

    While celebrating, he also took the chance to hold up a shirt bearing the name of injured team-mate Rafinha, who is set to be sidelined for the season after suffering an ACL injury.

Loser: Marc-Andre ter Stegen

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    It has been a tough week for Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

    Despite being a spectator for the vast majority of the games against AS Roma and Levante, the German still ended up conceding in both matches.

    In midweek he was lobbed from a long, long way out by AS Roma's Alessandro Florenzi. You can take a look at that wonder strike here.

    Manager Luis Enrique took responsibility for the goal in the UEFA Champions League game in Italy on Wednesday, but Ter Stegen was definitely at fault on Sunday.

    He tried coming out for a cross from the left, only to end up making little contact with the ball. His air shot allowed Victor Casadesus to finish into an empty net.

    But judging by the tweet from journalist and author Sid Lowe, the player remains confident in his own abilities, "Ter Stegen asked if he will change the way he plays, responds: why change?"

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