Match Preview: Levante v FC Barcelona

Arda Turan and Leo Messi celebrating against Málaga / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
Luis Enrique’s team have the chance to remain leaders against a side who have been active in the winter transfer market

Fresh off the back of their resounding 7-0 win over Valencia in the Copa del Rey, FC Barcelona will be looking to continue in their rich vein of form when they take on La Liga strugglers Levante on Sunday (12.00pm CET).

Luis Enrique has no particular injury concerns ahead of the top versus bottom clash other than long-term absentee Rafinha. Levante boss Rubí will be unable to call upon Casadesús, José Mari, Pedro López, Juanfran and Rubén due to injury, but welcomes back Deyverson who missed the league defeat to Sevilla due to suspension, as well as Orban.

The hosts also include their three January signings in the squad: Algerian international Carl Medjani, former Barça youth player Joan Verdú and ex-Villarreal forward Giuseppe Rossi.

Coaches’ viewpoint

Luis Enrique alluded to the upcoming opponents’ impressive moves in the recent transfer window in his pre-match press conference: “Levante have signed well and it will be a challenge for us to win and stay leaders.” The Barça boss, who will reach a century of matches as manager of the Catalans, also heaped praise on his team: “In these 100 games as coach we have won so much because we have the best players in the world.”

Rubí, who was part of the Barça coaching team in the 2013/14 season, says that “Sunday will be a very special day” for himself and his players. “Barcelona are on great form but we are fully focused on achieving the maximum,” warned the 46-year-old.

Form guide

Barça have the chance to equal the club’s record unbeaten streak of 28 matches on Sunday. The Copa del Rey semi-final first-leg rout over Valencia saw Luis Enrique’s men surpass the streak set by Michels’ team in the 1973/74 season and avoiding defeat against Levante would match that of Pep Guardiola’s sensational 2010-11 side.

Rubi’s side have lost seven of their last ten league matches but have shown recent signs of improvement, with maximum points from their two latest home games.

History

Barça have a great record at Levante, having lost just once in the fixture’s history with an unbeaten run of over 50 years. You have to go back to the 1964/65 season for Levante’s last and only ever home win over the Catalans. The Valencians’ ground is a particularly special place for Barça as they have sealed the league title on two occasions there this century, in 2004/05 and 2010/11.

Coverage

No matter where you are in the world we have you covered. Twitter users can follow @FCBarcelona for a live feed of all the action.

FC Barcelona in Valencia to face Levante

Neymar Jr, Messi and Suárez leaving from Barcelona airport / MIGUEL RUIZ-FCB
After training on Saturday the 18 man squad have flown south for their Sunday lunch time league clash (12.00pm CET)

The FC Barcelona first team are now in Valencia. After their final training session on Saturday in Barcelona, the 18 man squad named by Luis Enrique and the coaching staff headed south by plane. The flight left at 7.30pm CET and arrived just over an hour later.

Once in Valencia the team headed straight to their hotel where they will spend the night before facing Levante on Sunday at 12.00pm CET.

Final session before game against Levante

Neymar during Saturday's session at the Ciutat Esportiva  / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
Luis Enrique takes the session with all his available players at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper

FC Barcelona trained on Saturday before heading off to Valencia for the game against Levante. Luis Enrique Martínez took the session with all his available players at the Camp Tito Vilanova within the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper. The workout served to allow the squad to put the finishing touches to their preparations for Sunday’s game at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium (kick off 12.00pm CET).

Luis Enrique says Levante have signed well and are in need of points

Luis Enrique in front of the press on Saturday  / MIGUEL RUIZ - FCB
The Barça boss is not expecting an easy ride away from home on Sunday against a side who have brought in several new players in the winter transfer window

“It’s a good challenge to remain at the top of the table.” Luis Enrique considers Sunday’s game against Levante at the Ciutat de Valencia will be a tough game against a side who “need the points and have strengthened the squad well.” Picking up three points away from home is vital to remain in first place according to the Asturian coach and he warns Levante will “come out to put us under pressure.”

There will be no lack of motivation after the team’s superb 7-0 win in midweek in the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final against Valencia according to Luis Enrique. “The teams from the bottom half of the table raise their game as you move into the final third of the season,” said the Barça coach.

On reaching 100 games as blaugrana coach on Sunday, he added: “I am proud of the good and the bad. It forms part of this stage as the coach with the team and all the staff together, we have enjoyed it a lot and suffered.

“The good statistics are down to having the best players, that’s why we enjoy it, everybody, us and the fans.”

[MATCH REPORT] @FCBhoquei – ERG Iserlohn: Good run continues (7-2) #FCBlive #OKeuro

Lucas Ordoñez and Marc Gual celebrating one of the goals v Iserholn  / VICTOR SALGADO - FCB
A splendid second half from the home side means they will now meet Liceo in the last 8 of the competition

MATCH STATS

FCB Lassa, 7

Iserlohn, 2

FC Barcelona Lassa: Sergi Fernández, Matías Pascual, X.Costa,  Nil Roca, X.Barroso –starting five- Sergi Aragonès, Marc Gual, Lucas Ordóñez and Sergi Llorca.

ERG Iserlohn: Glowka, Milewski, Fonseca, Pereira, Costa –starting five- Carlos Núñez, Hilbertz and Hegener.

Goals: 0-1 Milewski  (minute 5), 1-1 Matías Pascual (minute 13), 2-1 Marc Gual (minute 16), 3-1 Lucas Ordóñez (minute 29), 4-1 Lucas Ordóñez (minute 36), 5-1 Xavi Costa (minute 40), 6-1 Nil Roca (minute 41), 6-2 Sergio Pereira (minute 41), 7-2 Sergi Aragonès (minute 47)

Barça Lassa roller hockey ended the first phase of the European League this Saturday with an important win over German league leaders ERG Iserlohn. The 7-2 win for Ricard Muñoz’s team came despite falling behind to an early from their opponents at the Palau Blaugrana and a strong second half performance confirmed the win for the blaugranes.

The game saw debuts for Nil Roca, Sergi Lorca and Sergi Aragonés with Barça ending the group stage in second place, their reward being a quarter-final against Liceo in March and April.

Despite being already through to the knock out stages, Barça started strongly at home to the German side. Nevertheless, it was Iserlohn who took the lead with Milewski opening the scoring. Muñoz’s team did not panic and before they knew it, Matias Pascual had equalised. Barros and Gual combined for the latter to put the blaugranes ahead before the break.

In the second half two goals in quick succession for Lucas Ordóñez and Xavi Costa gave Barça a 4-1 advantage. Ordóñez scored a second for himself not long after before youngster Nil Roca made it 6-1. Pereira pulled one back for the Germans before Aragonés rounded off the scoring to make the final result 7-2 to Barça.

Barça B – UE Olot: Four wins in a row (2-0)

Kaptoum celebrating the first goal of the game for Barça B / VÍCTOR SALGADO - FCB
Gerard López’s team have taken 13 points from the last 15 with their latest win coming thanks to goals from Kaptoum and Cámara

MATCH STATS

Barça B, 2
UE Olot, 0

Barça B: Ortolá, Palencia, Moisés, Gumbau, Tarín, Samper, Xemi, Kaptoum (Fali, min 61), Dani Romera, Perea (Ros, min 91), Chamorro (Cámara, min 72).

UE Olot: Wilfred, Jose, Luismi, Blázquez, Rojas, Djack (Abel, min 79), Marcel, Héctor, Diego, Sana (Vallho, min 88), Èric Reverter (Bigas, 63).

Goals: 1-0 Kaptoum, min 11; 2-0 Cámara, min 92.

FC Barcelona B continue their excellent recent form as Gerard López’s team have recorded their fourth victory in a row by beating Olot 2-0 at the Miniestadi. Furthermore, they have not conceded in those four victories, the latest of which came courtesy of a first half goal from Kaptoum and a strike right at the death from midfielder Cámara.

Coming into the game in confident mood due to their run of three successive wins, Barça B dominated the early exchanges. Kaptoum and Chamorro had chances early on before Olot threatened on the counter with the Serramitja having the visitors’ first real opportunity.

The game was end to end in the early minutes before Kaptoum scored his second goal in two games to Barça B the lead. The Cameroonian midfielder scored the winner last week against Hospitalet and his third goal of the season put the blaugranes 1-0 up at home to Olot.

Gerard López’s team came close to a second before half time with Dani Romera and then Perea almost doubling the blaugranes’ lead. In midfield Sergi Samper began to exert his control before Barça keeper Ortolá kept his team’s lead in tact with a save from Luismi.

In the second half the game changed with the midfield coming into its own. Samper had a chance from distance and then Xemi had a chance to make it 2-0, his shot being deflected wide by an Olot defender.

The visitors had a chance to draw level with eight minutes to go but Ortolá once again was equal to the task when he denied Marcel. Barça B settled the game when Juan Cámara took advantage of a poor clearance to make it 2-0 just before the end. Gerard López’s team now sit comfortably in mid table on 31 points after their latest victory.

LIVE – Luis Enrique press conference ahead of FC Barcelona v Levante

Luis Enrique
The Barça manager appears before the media at the Ciutat Esportiva to talk about Sunday’s Liga match which kicks off at 12.00pm CET

Beginning at 16.00pm CET, follow the press conference LIVE as FC Barcelona head coach Luis Enrique fields questions from the media the day before his team is set to face Levante.

Talking points ahead of Levante v FC Barcelona

Barça beat Levante 4-1 at the Camp Nou earlier this season / FCB
A look at some of the key issues going into Sunday’s 12.00pm CET kick-off between the teams at opposite ends of the Liga table

A unusual kick-off time against a struggling but much-changed opponent are among the discussion points as FC Barcelona prepare to complete an astonishing 28 games without defeat.

TIME FOR CHANGE

Barça fans around the world will be adjusting their schedules for what is an unusual Sunday noon kick-off CET. In the Americas, it either means staying up ridiculously late on Saturday or getting up in the small hours. In the Far East and Oceania, however, it means the rare luxury of a Barça game at a sensible evening time.

In Europe, it simply means readjusting our schedules a little – for a lot us, our concern instead is staying up all night Sunday to watch the Superbowl!

FAMILIAR FACE

Levante manager, Joan Francesc Ferrer, better known as Rubí, has a Barça past. He gained a fine reputation in charge of a number of clubs around Catalonia, and in June 2013, Tito Vilanova decided to make him a member of his FCB coaching staff.

Shortly after, Vilanova resigned due to his illness, but Rubi stayed at the Camp Nou for the 2014/15 season, assisting Tata Martino, where his expertise at planning set pieces was particularly valued.

NEW-LOOK LEVANTE

Rubi’s side are currently rooted to the bottom of the Liga table with just 17 points from 22 games, and in a bid to turn things round, the club was especially active during the winter transfer window.

Two new players have arrived on frees:  Algerian international Carl Medjani joins from Trabzonspor in Turkey and former Barça youth player Joan Verdú , best known for his years at Espanyol, has moved back to La Liga from Fiorentina in Italy, who have also sent Italian international Giuseppe Rossi on loan to the Cuitat de Valencia.

Argentinian defender Lucas Orban is also at Levante on a loan deal, in his case from neighbours Valencia, while striker Mauricio Cuero is set to get his first taste of European football after being signed from La Equidad in his native Colombia.

SÚAREZ EVER-PRESENT

Since Barça beat Levante 4-1 at the Camp Nou in September, Luis Suárez has played all 90 minutes of every league game. The Uruguayan has enjoyed a trouble-free time since he joined the club from Liverpool, only having suffered one minor injury that still wasn’t enough to keep him out of the starting line-up for the Champions League Final in Berlin.

Playing so many games doesn’t seem to affect him at all. With 35 goals this season, 19 of those in La Liga, he has hit on probably the finest form of his career.

MATCHING PEP

Under Pep Guardiola in the 2010/11 season, Barça went 28 games without defeat to set a new record in Spanish football. If Luis Enrique can avoid defeat in his 100th match in charge, then Barça will equal that tally, and will have the chance to set a new record when they return to Valencia, this time to Mestalla in the cup, on Wednesday.

Questions were asked after Barça were defeated at Sevilla back in October. But it’s safe to say that those doubts have more than been dispelled by yet another historic streak from the boys in blue and red.

Ten years of FC Barcelona on YouTube

FC Barcelona celebrates ten years on YouTube / FOTOMUNTATGE FCB
Barça has the most subscribers of all sports teams worldwide, with over two million signing up to its channel

On 6 February 2006, FC Barcelona began a pilot phase on YouTube, due to the platform’s increasing popularity among youngsters. Ten years on, Barça is now the most followed sports team in the world, with over two million subscribers.

Below are ten facts which highlight the club’s impact on the biggest video-sharing website:

– Barca’s YouTube channel has over 2,144,200 subscribers in its ten years of life, making it the most followed sports institution worldwide.

– The Catalan club stands clear of its nearest footballing rivals such as Real Madrid (1.9million subscribers), Manchester City (559,000), Chelsea (487,000) and Liverpool (408,000).

– It is also the sports club with the most views worldwide (456 million) and fifth overall in sports, behind only the NBA, MLB, MotoGP and the Olympics.

– More than 12,600 videos have been uploaded, which would take a little over 1,600 years to watch all of them.

– If videos uploaded about Barça by other users were taken into account, the total viewing time would be around 185million hours.

– The videos have earned over three million ‘likes’.

– The five countries which account for the most views are: United States, Spain, Brazil, Mexico and Morocco.

– The victory parade of the 2015 treble remains the video with the most comments on Barça’s channel

– The day of the Neymar Jr’s presentation (4 June 2013) was the busiest day in the history of Barça’s channel, with four million views.

– The ten most viewed videos of the channel are:

1. Messi and Neymar keep-ups battle

2. Inside view of El Clásico

3. Pep Guardiola tribute

4. The highlights of the 2006 Champions League final

5. Justin Bieber training with FC Barcelona

6. Neymar’s first touches for FC Barcelona

7. Ronaldinho documentary

8. Previously unpublished images of Leo Messi at La Masia

9. How Messi prepares for a game

10. A spectacular goal by Barça‘s youngsters