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Levante beat Barça to bring lead to Camp Nou second leg

Goals from Cabaco and Mayoral in the first half saw Levante into a deserved lead before a Denis Suarez-won penalty was converted by Coutinho late on.


Levante 2-1 Barcelona: match report

Barcelona have it all to do after falling to a spirited Levante side on Thursday night, with the hosts placing their foot on the visitors' throat from the first minute and they didn't remove it for the entirity of the Copa del Rey clash. They squeezed space, closed passing lanes and caused confusion for Valverde's rotated Barcelona side.

After losing 5-0 at this same ground just a couple of weeks ago to the same opposition, Levante wanted to prove to their fans and to themselves that they were better than that result. They got the chance to do so without Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and more of Ernesto Valverde's first choice eleven but it could not have been more convincing.

With high pressure, they were causing Barcelona problems from the moment they kicked off. And they had the opener after three minutes when their pressure provided them with a free on the left. Ruben Rochina launched it into the middle and it landed on Erick Cabaco's head. Jasper Cillessen had no chance with the unmarked defender picking his spot with his forehead.

Borja Mayoral, who was a Real Madrid player until the last few days of the summer, scored the second after the indefatiguable Emmanuel Boateng put him through on goal after 18 minutes. It was time for Barcelona, now 2-0 down, to mount a comeback. Or not.

It was Levante who looked more likely with a stuttering Barcelona attack, a midfield that couldn't grab a hold of the game and a defense made up of players who looked like they had never played together. Most of them hadn't with Jeison Murillo making his debut and both Chumi and Juan Miranda getting the call from Barca's B side.

Barcelona improved ever so slightly in the second half but they hardly troubled Levante's goal until Denis Suarez came on and saved Barcelona's blushes. He dribbled into the penalty area and Coke caught his heel with a clumsy tackle before Coutinho scored the penalty. The lack of a celebration did not go unnoticed on the same day that reports emerged from the Camo Nou suggesting the Brazilian is disappointed with his role, or lack thereof, in Valverde's plans in recent weeks.

Levante can bask in the glory of a win over the league leaders but the second leg will be a different story. Expect Messi and co. to return but the players who started on Thursday night, many of the academy products, tried and failed to earn Ernesto Valverde's trust. That leaves the Barcelona manager with a dilemma when rotating time comes around again and with a potential treble on the cards.

Levante vs Barcelona live online: match updates and commentary

Levante vs Barcelona live online: preview

Barcelona travel to Levante in the Copa del Rey last 16 first round tie on Thursday night with kick-off at 21:30 CET. They have rested some of their big hitters and brought plenty of younger players in their squad. Levante are winless in four in the league and have suffered defeat to lowly Rayo and Barcelona during that run. They'll be looking to right the ship on Thursday but Barcelona have their sights set on a potential treble and their youngsters will be keen to prove their worth when they travel to Valencia.

Levante's form at home in recent weeks has been shoddy with a hammering at the hands of Barcelona followed by a come-from-behind draw with Girona most recently. Paco Lopez is likely to rotate his side with Atlético Madrid lying in wait in LaLiga at the weekend with an extra day rest having played out a draw with Girona.

Barcelona have left Piqué, Rakitic, Suárez, Messi, and Jordi Alba out of their squad to rest them for a hectic January and February and an assault on all three competitions they remain in. Munir has been left out too but he seems to have played his last game for the club as Ernesto Valverde says he has made his decision and so has the club. Rafinha, Samper, Umtiti and Vermaelen remain out injured. Barcelona have a shortage of options up front but Valverde says they could turn to Arturo Vidal as an option. His starting eleven will be interesting given the absences through rest and injury with plenty of chances available to the players called up.


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