Barça crowned Liga champions after narrow Levante win
Ernesto Valverde's side made hard work of it against the Frogs but a Leo Messi goal was enough to ensure the champions retained their title at Camp Nou.
They have may have stumbled to the line rather than cantered, by their own staggering recent standards, but Barcelona successfully defended their Liga title on Saturday night with a 1-0 defeat of Levante at Camp Nou that saw Ernesto Valverde’s side crowned on home turf with three games of the season remaining. It wasn’t pretty, nerves jangled until the 92nd minute, but in the end, despite Levante’s best efforts to delay the inevitable, the home side did just enough to win back-to-back leagues.
Barça could have, and should have, tied it up even earlier but somehow contrived to score four against Villarreal in the Cerámica yet leave with a single point, while Valverde opted to chuck on the stiffs in Huesca a couple of weeks earlier where a 0-0 stalemate was more than the champions elect deserved.
At that stage, Valverde knew that all Barça needed to do was win their remaining home games to lift a 26th Liga title and shave another layer of gold paint off the historical gap to Real Madrid’s 33. Over the past decade, Barça’s domestic dominance has been absolute, seven titles added to the Camp Nou trophy cabinet while Madrid have managed two. Saturday’s triumph was Leo Messi’s 10th Liga since he made his debut for the club and it was fitting that the Barça captain delivered the winner on the night.
Madridistas may bristle as they point to three Champions League trophies and the Club World Cup logo that Santiago Solari was so eager to attach embellished importance to before he was sacked for surrendering Real’s hold on Europe, but Zinedine Zidane summed up the difference between a league and a cup victory recently and the Bernabéu boss is under no illusions that wresting national relevance back is the “primary goal” for 2019-20.
"For me, the most important thing is LaLiga. In the Champions League you have 12 or 13 games if you win it; LaLiga is every day,” Zidane said before the 0-0 midweek draw at Getafe.
Barça almost flawless in 2018-19
This season, Barcelona have spent just four weeks away from the summit of LaLiga – two of them weeks one and two, when Sevilla and Madrid tasted the air before their oxygen ran out – and only the Andalusian side returned, spending weeks eight and 13 dreaming of the improbable.
Valverde has been questioned at times during the season but the fact remains that his Barcelona side have been beaten just twice in 38 games, by Leganés and Betis. Real Madrid, Atlético, Valencia, Sevilla and the remaining 17 sides failed to make a dent, Los Che topping the table of points nicked off the champions with two. Madrid were beaten twice; Diego Simeone’s side, Barça’s nearest challengers again, put in their place at Camp Nou once more.
Messi will claim the Pichichi award and probably the European Golden Shoe again, with only Kylian Mbappé left to stop the Argentinean. He may well regain the Ballon d’Or for the first time since 2015. Luis Suárez, his strike partner, has answered his critics once again with a vintage season after a sluggish start.
Barça are still in with a chance of the treble; four games stand between Valverde and the Holy Grail. For now, the man they call Txingurri (The Ant) has proven his resilience again. Since joining Barcelona in the summer of 2017, Valverde has won every major domestic title available. In the league, he has lost just three games across the course of two seasons.
Real Madrid fans may talk about black and white and colour - in reference to their relative lack of modern success in Europe prior to the dawn of Zidane - and can rightly now lay the archive footage to rest. But LaLiga is vivid claret and blue. The Frenchman is intent on turning a page this summer in his pursuit of the eternal rival but this chapter belongs to Barça, Valverde, Messi and Suárez.
Barcelona vs Levante live online: as it happened
90'+2' Suárez clears! The whistle goes! Barça are 2018-19 Liga champions!
90'+2' Aitor is up.... what a story that would be....
90'+1' Barça caught trying to play it out of the back - somewhere, Sam Allardyce nods grimly - and Levante have a corner....
90'+1' Levante go close again! What are Barça playing at? Just get your foot on the ball, screams Valverde.
90' Two minutes added....
89' What a finish as Morales clips the upright, Ter Stegen gathers under pressure and then Suárez takes it up the other end and almost finds an angle there!
88' Goodness gracious! Hold the engraver! Levante hit the post!
87' It goes short, predictably, to Messi. Sergi Roberto is almost played in by Alba but doesn't react in time to the ball.
87' Corner for Barça... no rush to take....
86' Levante have their own ideas though and are not yet mathematically safe. They're not giving up on this as Morales boshes another cross in that Barça clear.
85' Barça are five minutes away from being crowned Liga champions...
84' Messi! The Argentinean fires just wide of the far post and claims a corner. It did appear to hit a yellow shirt on its way but the ref signals a goal kick.
83' And that's Dembélé's final contribution as he heads off for Sergi Roberto.
82' Dembélé and Messi combine in the area but the Frenchman elects to try and return the ball to his captain rather than shooting and the chance goes begging.
80' Vidal is pulled up for handball but Suárez doesn't realise until he's already blasted a ball over the bar.
79' That's now 20 shots for Barça, 10 of which Aitor has kept out.
78' Messi again! Aitor again!
77' Ter Stegen! The Barça keeper makes a point blank save from Campaña with his defence stood perfectly still, watching potential disaster unfold! We wonder what Jürgen Klopp is making of all of this...
76' Semedo takes one for the team as he blocks Rochina with Levante threatening a three on three break.
75' Vidal! Piqué bursts from midfield and finds the Chilean, who hammers a shot towards goal but it's deflected for a corner.
74' Piqué gets into a right old pickle but gets out of it with a drag back in his own area... it's turned into that sort of Barça performance.
73' Rakitic and Coke get into a tangle on the edge of the area but no free kick is given. Barça look for Jordi Alba on the left but the pass it well overhit and the full back can't get there.
72' Sergio Busquets about to come on to try and lend some semblance of order to Barça's midfield. Arthur off.
71' Bardhi straight into the wall again.
70' 70' Another yellow as Piqué hammers into Mayoral. Bardhi range... and Valverde is apoplectic on the touchline! barça are doing everything in their power to gift their lead to the visitors.
69' Bardhi! Straight into the wall! Rochina picks it up on the far side and makes a bad decision to have a go when there's not angle.
68' Free kick to Levante as Morales is tripped just on the edge of the area... Barça have gone to pieces after the goal!
67' Morales! The Levante veteran bursts through the Barça back line and is clean through but sends his shot just wide of Ter Stegen's far stick with the goal begging!
66' Levante close again! Lenglet just gets across to deny Mayoral! The game has gone a bit mental now as Barça break again...!
66' Aitor! Another solid stop from the Levante keeper to deny Suárez.
65' Dembélé is almost clear through but slips at the vital moment, the ball hitting his hand as he goes down. A decent chance begging there.
64' Bardhi and his magic right boot on for Levante, who are determined to spoil Barça's parade.
63' Ter Stegen! The keeper has had nothing to do all evening but he reacts quickly as Mayoral is played throught and puts in a vital block on the former Madrid man's shot. Barça guilty of a little post-goal siesta there.
62' And now the cheers of "Campeones! Campeones!" ring out around Camp Nou.
61' Dembélé has a shot blocked, Suárez has a shot blocked, Vidal brings the rebound down and finds Messi, who as only Messi can takes out two defenders by standing still and then clips the ball past Aitor for 1-0.
61' Goooooooooooooooooool! Messi! Of course it's Messi!
60' The hour mark comes up and 0-0 it remains in Camp Nou.
59' Barça break, Messi finds Dembélé and he has a shot, but it's well wide of the far post. Went for the curler but couldn't get his boot around it sufficiently.
58' Morales causes a minor panic at the back - how often have we seen that this season? - but he manages to dispossess himself in the Barça area.
57' Vezo joins Rochina on a caution for a clumsy challenge on the advancing Messi.
56' Rakitic! The midfielder curls a beauty towards the far post and it misses by not very much at all!
56' Barça really piling on the pressure now...
55' Rochina goes into the book for a sliding challenge on Rakitic.
54' Great work again from Suárez who tricks his way into the area and looks for Arthur on the penalty spot. Levante hack it clear again but this is surely just a matter of time. Barça up to 14 shots, Aitor on eight saves.
52' Dembélé finds Alba on the overlap and the full back's attempted cross is a shot on target, Aitor again making the save.
51' Suárez does well on the right of the area and chips in a cross that it sent behind for a corner. Levante break from the delivery but Semedo shows his pace to catch the run of Morales and mop up.
50' Messi gets his first sight of goal and hits a low shot to Aitor's right but it's not an effort worthy of the number 10 and the Levante keeper has another comfortable save to add to his tally.
48' Messi has an immediate impact, skipping away from several challenges to feed Dembélé on the left. The Frenchman tries to thread a ball to Suárez, who would have had a tap-in, but Coke sticks a boot out and denied the Uruguayan.
46' Dembélé has switched to the left to accommodate Messi, who takes up his usual nominal position on the right.
46' And we're back underway!
46' Morales on for Levante, Moses off.
46' Confirmation of that change. Messi takes the captain's armband from Piqué and comes on in place of Coutinho.
The teams are preparing to come back out for the second half. Messi is coming on for Barça...
13 Barça shots to zero for Levante, but it's still 0-0 at half time thanks to Aitor's magnificent stop from Coutinho's free kick. Barça's defence, Liverpool fans will not be pleased to note, have basically all been rested for the opening 45 minutes.
45' That's the half!
44' Vidal has his leg sweeped, Barça have a free kick. This could be the last chance of the half. Dembélé delivers, Rakitic gets a head on it but it's well over and the whistle goes for half time! As it stands, Barça will have to wait another week to be crowned champions. But there are 45 minutes to go and a certain Argentinean cooling his heels on the bench.
42' Free kick to Barça on the right.... Dembélé delivers but Levante clear. Corner, the Frenchman over it again, cleared again... Barça pick the ball up in midfield and start again.
41' Dembélé again gets away down the left, Dembélé again finds a yellow shirt with his cut back into the area.
39' What a save! Aitor, at full stretch, gets his fingertips to a Coutinho zinger and touches it onto the bar! Excellent shot, even better save.
38' And there'll be another here as Suárez is floored on the edge of the area...
37' According to our friends at football-lineups.com, Barça's shot record in LaLiga this season is 30, against Huesca back in September. The home side are on 11 this far.
36' Nope, it's wellied towards Suárez, who makes enough of a nuisance of himself in a challenge with Aitor to incur the ref's whistle.
35' Free kick to Barça out on the left... odds on them taking it short?
33' Levante get into the Barça half and Moses wins a throw. A mix-up sees the pig skin go straight out for a goal kick though. Ter Stegen is practically doing the gentleman keeper of the 1930s thing, foot on post, pipe clenched between teeth, reading the paper... not sure he's had a touch other than whack the ball back towards the Levante half.
31' Penalty appeal! Suárez goes down but the ref is having none of it... there was possibly contact but it looked as though it was ball then (stunt) man.
29' Levante are asking an awful lot of Borja Mayoral, who is operating as a lone striker against Piqué and Lenglet. A hopeful ball in his general direction is lofted forward and duly dealt with by the Barça captain.
28' Rochins shows a bit of the skill that earned him a place in La Masia back in the day and wins a throw. A valuable breather for the visitors.
26' Coutinho again! Barça's 10th shot and again Aitor isn't really made to sweat. He's up to six saves and counting now though, one for the grandkids even if most of the shots he's faced so far have been bread and butter.
25' Coutinho again! The Barça man is unmarked in the area as Alba's cross is swung over and all he has to do it put it to one side or the other of Aitor! Instead, he whacks it straight at the keeper, who falls backwards gratefully onto his backside with the ball in his gloves.
25' Coutinho! A curler from the Brazilian should have given Aitor more trouble but the Brazilian didn't quite get hold of it.
24' Dembélé gets to the byline again and cuts a decent ball back into the area. An air kick from Vezo almost lets the lurking Suárez in but Coke spares his teammate's blushes.
23' Free kick to Levante as Dembélé and Semedo needlessly rough up Simon after the Levante winger falls on the ball.
21' Semedo pushes the ball onto his left and has a pop but Vezo is there to block. All one-way traffic at the moment.
19' Suárez! That was almost the opener! The Uruguayan powers into the area under the attention of three yellow shirts but manages to clip a shot towards goal with the outside of his right boot that Aitor does very well to get a hand to for a corner.
18' Levante make a rare foray forward through Coke and Barça are forced to clear as the ball is played in towards Mayoral.
17' Coutinho tries a velvet touch to play Suárez in but it was a little too soft, Levante able to pounce on it before the Pistolero could unholster his right boot.
15' Levante are awarded a free kick in their own area as a flurry of boots attempt to connect with a Dembélé knock-down. It's a Levanet defender who gets a boot in the chops though.
13' Rakitic goes in the book for a crunching tackle on Mayoral, who had he been able to turn the Croatian could hve had a clean path towards Ter Stegen.
12' Barça have managed five shots so far, with three on target. Levante have barely got over the halfway line.
11' Dembélé turns on the after burners and gets away down the right but he pulls the ball back to nobody in particular as the garish yellow shirts close ranks.
9' Alba and Luis Suárez combine and the Uruguayan almost pulls a lovely Cruyff-ish turn in the area but Levante clear.
8' Jodri Alba settles for a throw as his cross is deflected back at him and Barça thread a few passes together in the Levante half to test the line of five Paco López has set up when his side don't have the ball. This evening one suspects they will defending for the most part.
6' Lenglet! Coutinho turns provider this time and lands a ball on the Frenchman's head, but he glances wide... head in hands after that, he knows he should have hit the target there.
5' Coutinho! The Brazilian picks up the ball in his favoured area on the edge of the box and lets fly but Aitor makes a sprawling save!
3' Campaña swings it in but it's a poor delivery and doesn't get past Luis Suárez at the near post.
3' Corner to Levante...
2' A decent move from Levante breaks down as Moses tries a backheel and Barça break through Dembélé, who feeds Suárez. The Uruguayan is one on one with Aitor but hits his shot straight at the Levante keeper.
1' And we're off! Barcelona get the ball rolling.
Piqué captaining Barça this evening, he gets the formalities in the middle underway.
The Barça anthem belts out... Barça! Barça! Baaaaarça! Tum, tum, tum. Gets stuck in the head pretty easily it has to be said.
The teams are in the tunnel now, Levante in their fluorescent yellow/green away number, Barça in the old claret and blue.
We're just 10 minutes away from kick-off in Camp Nou now and Barça are 90 minutes from glory. Can Levante upset the odds?
Levante have not enjoyed their trips to Camp Nou in Primera though, conceding seven, five, four and three goals in their last four trips to Camp Nou. The Frogs were also beaten 5-0 at the Ciutat de Valencia earlier this season.
Fancy another look at that extraordinary 5-4 Levante win that prevented Barça going the season unbeaten in 2017-18? Of course you do...
Our resident oracle has had a long old gaze at the trusty(ish) crystal ball, and assures us that said victory over Levante is precisely what will come to pass.
Had Atlético Madrid lost to Real Valladolid earlier today, Barça would have taken to the field already champions; as it is, however, Los Rojiblancos' narrow win at the Wanda Metropolitano means victory over Levante is what stands between Ernesto Valverde's men and a 26th Spanish league title.
Good evening and welcome to our live coverage of Barcelona's clash with Levante at Camp Nou - on a night that could well see the Blaugrana wrap up their second straight LaLiga title.
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