Spotlight on Levante

Levante were founded in 1909 and despite living in the shadow of their bigger city neighbour Valencia, they did enjoy some success in the 1930s, reaching the Spanish Cup semi finals in 1935 after seeing off both Valencia and Bara. Levante also won the Free Spain Cup during the civil war a tournament held between teams in the Republican held territories. This competition was recognised as official by the Spanish Parliament in 2007, although the Spanish footballing authorities subsequently upheld the Francoist governments post war decision to deny it legitimacy.

Levante were named after the wind which whipped round their original beachfront ground, but after the civil war they were forced to move, eventually building the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in the late 1960s. By that time, they had made their debut in the top flight playing their first game against Espanyol in Barcelona, where they drew 4-4. They lasted just two seasons though and didnt return for nearly 40 years, finally winning promotion in the 2003/04 season under Manolo Preciado.

The team were relegated and promoted again twice during the first decade of the century, but after their last promotion in 2010, they have enjoyed two seasons of success, first under Luis Garcia who spent three years at the club between 2008 and 2011 and helped them to a 10th place finish last season, and this year under Juan Ignacio Martinez.


Its been a great season for Levante, who have spent much of the campaign in the top four and achieved a notable win over Real Madrid during a nine game unbeaten start to the season . Their progress is particularly notable given that Levante have the lowest budget in the division 23 million Euros. Levante currently lie in fifth place on 48 points, two behind Malaga in fourth and two above sixth place Osasuna.

After a difficult January and February, when they won just one of their opening eight games of 2012, Levante have recovered and before their midweek defeat to Sporting they had won five of their previous eight games. Levante have won 9 of their 16 matches at the Ciutat de Valencia so far this season, lost 4 and drawn 3, scoring 26 goals and conceding 16.


Ivory Coast striker Araouna Kon is Levantes leading scorer this season, with 13 goals and Juan Ignacio Martinez will surely do everything possible to play him against Bara despite his fitness problems. The African is currently on loan from Seville, who signed him for a then record club fee of 12 million Euros from PSV in 2007.

A serious knee injury cut short his progress at Seville, who also loaned him out to Hannover in 2010, but this season he has been a key part in Levantes success and is just one goal away from becoming their highest ever goalscorer in the top flight.

Spanish League Preview, Week 33

Villarreal(35 points) currently have a seven point cushion over Zaragoza and Sporting, with Granada a further point ahead on 36 and Racing bottom on 25. Despite the bad news that their prolific striker Giuseppe Rossi, who has been out with a knee injury since last October, suffered another bad injury in training on Thursday which will rule him out for a further six months, Villarreal, who have lost just one of their last ten home games drawing with Bara, Valencia and Real Madrid and beating Malaga in that run will start favourites against the bottom club Racing with just one win in their last 16 – on Sunday.

Fellow strugglers Zaragoza could also see any hopes of a fight back dashed if they are unable to beat Granada at La Romareda, with a win virtually ensuring another season in the top flight for the visitors and possibly leaving Zaragoza with a ten point gap between them and safety.

Tough call for Sporting

Sporting Gijon have taken just 9 points from their 16 away games so far this season and a trip to the Bernabeu on Saturday night cant offer too much hope to Clementes relegation haunted side. Below the top two, Valencia(52 points) and Malaga(50) continue to battle it out for third place, with Emerys team away to Espanyol and Pellegrinis side hosting Real Sociedad.

Seville hunting down European spot

Of all the teams chasing European places behind Bara and Madrid, Seville are the only ones to have put together a consistent run of results and sit menacingly in seventh on 45 points ahead of Mondays visit to Getafe, with their next three games against Levante, Real Madrid and Betis likely to be key in deciding their European options.

Sixth place Osasuna(46 points) travel to Sevilles city rivals Betis, hoping to avoid a repeat of last weekends thrashing at Rayo, whilst Athletic Bilbao(42) are at home to Mallorca in a game that sees Joaquin Caparros return to San Mames for his first league game since he left the club last season. Atletico Madrid are level on points with Bilbao, Espanyol and Getafe and on Sunday they play their second successive Madrid derby when they travel across the city to Vallecas to take on Rayo(40 points)

Forward thinking strictly forbidden

Both Levante and FC Barcelona are within touching distance of their respective targets. The Valencian side are just two points off fourth place, which would send them through to the Champions League qualifiers, while the Catalans have managed to narrow the gap between themselves and the former runaway league leaders to just four points. Both teams come face to face at the Ciutat de Valncia tonight (22.00, TV3, La Sexta and Rdio Bara), the first game of a decisive week for Barcelona, in which they will also meet Chelsea (Wednesday 18) and Real Madrid (Saturday 21). In order to keep their title hopes alive, for the time being, the Bara players have been ordered not to even think about either of those two matches.

Alves and Piqu in but Keita out

Guardiola is glad to be able to recall both Alves and Piqu from injury, but some minor trouble with his right thigh has kept Seydou Keita out of the squad of eighteen. The Malian was the scorer of the last goal Bara scored away to Levante, just over a year ago, and which served to mathematically clinch Baras third league title in a row. Cesc, who was suspended against Getafe, also returns to a squad that also includes two Bara B players in Tello and Montoya.

Javi Venta in doubt

Javi Venta is the biggest incognito in the home squad. One of the full backs left toes was trodden upon in last Wednesdays 3-2 defeat at Sporting Gijn, and the player was unable to train on Thursday or Friday. Also absent is Del Horno, who is out until May.

Fifth placed Levante is the only team to have won at home to Real Madrid all season (1-0), while other strong sides have also been beaten at the Ciutat de Valncia, including Sevilla (1-0) and Atltico Madrid (2-0).

The Azulgrana Roundup, Week 12

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“Question: Do you have a pre-match ritual or anything you do before a game for good luck?

Xavi: No, I’m not obsessive like that. I try to concentrate and visualise the match a bit. I imagine my opponents, who will play in my area of the pitch and how the match is going to develop, but I have no superstitions.

  • Puyol shows off a new face ornament he picked up during this weekends match (this is also your hint to the following question). Caption: Do you know what this is?
  • KS Leong. When Iniesta strikes, his teams never lose: the World Cup heros amazing scoring record for Barcelona and Spain

Iniesta has been christened San Andres in some parts. In others he is known as the Heartbreaker thanks to his uncanny propensity to score crucial late goals to kill off an opponent, and break rival fans hearts.

En cuestin de internet siguen batiendo registros: ms de 6 millones de visitas en menos de un mes, claro que el premio merece la pena. Por si os animis os comento que el twitter chino se llama Tencent Weibo y que el Bara tiene cuenta oficial verificada con un milln de seguidores, ste es el enlace solo hay un pero comprubalo t mismo

Lionel Messi scoring 60 goals in one season is incredible, especially due to the fact that the last time anyone scored that amount of goals in one season was nearly 40 years ago, by one Gerd Muller who used to play for Bayern. Earlier than that? The 1940s and so on. The incredible thing is that its very reasonable tobelieveLionel Messi will find himself holding the record for most goals in one season in European club competition this season, with Cristiano Ronaldo not too far behind him.

Xavi is different in basic terms he is a separate type of player, preferring constant neat short passes rather than the searching long diagonals that Pirlo and Scholes favour. Furthermore, his positional development was the opposite he went from being the pivote in the Barcelona system to playing closer to goal. They asked me to get up and down and provide assists, Xavi recalls in Graham Hunter’s book Bara: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World. But it’s difficult from that [deep] position. Ten or 15 metres further up the pitch, where I play now, makes it much easier for me.

“My kids love him,” he said. “They both have Barcelona shirts with his name on the back and they like the fact I swapped shirts with him after one of our previous games.”

“Barcelona-based orthropaedic surgeon Dr. Ramon Cugat spoke to Catalan radio station Ona FM on the recovery of Ibrahim Afellay, Andreu Fonts, and David Villa, whom all appear to be well on their way to full match fitness.”

Alves and Piqué in squad

Good news for the Bara coaches. For Saturdays game away to Levante (22.00, TV3 and La Sexta), Bara have both Gerard Piqu and Dani Alves available. The two defenders have been declared fully fit following their respective muscular problems. The centre back has been missing for two league matches and the right back was out for the Getafe game.

But Seydou Keita has been left out as a precautionary measure. The Malian has been having minor thigh trouble, and therefore joins Villa, Fonts, Abidal and Afellay as an absentee. The latter has actually been given medical clearance, but has not been included in the team, while reserve players Cristian Tello and Martin Montoya do make the squad.

Congratulations for Puyol

Fridays training session at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper started with a round of applause in honour of Carles Puyols 34th birthday. Alves and Piqu both worked out normally, but Keita exercised separately due to his fitness concerns. Tello and Montoya were also there for the final session before travelling south to Valencia for Saturdays Liga fixture.

Deulofeu, to miss Girona clash

Eusebio’s birthday

This Friday, April 13th, the reserve side manager turns 48-years-old. Sacristn shares his birthday with the captain of the first team, Carles Puyol, who turns 34. Congratulations!

Eusebio Sacristn will not be able to field Gerard Deulofeu against Girona in Bara Bs upcoming Liga match on Saturday (18:00). The player is still recovering from an ankle sprain that he sustained in the match against Crdoba last week. Therefore the Catalan will be added to the list of unavailable players along with Tello and Montoya, with the first team, and Ilie and Mio, both of whom are injured. Kiko Femena is also injured.

Bartra and Muniesa, with the team

The team completed their final training session this Friday before they play the Catalan derby against Girona. The match will be played at the Montilivi Municipal Stadium. For this match, Eusebio will be able to use Bartra and Muniesa, who have returned to training with the reserve side after a short stint with the first team.

Eusebio: Girona will be motivated

Sacristn explained what type of game he anticipates when his men take on Girona tomorrow: they will be motivated, especially because of their position in the table. Its worth mentioning that Girona is currently sitting in the 12th spot of the Liga Adelante and with six points they can secure their spot in the league. Theyve played at a good level in their past couple of games, including a victory against the leaders Deportivo, who they beat 1-0 two weeks ago. It would be a good birthday present to win on Saturday, concluded Sacristn, who turns 48 this Friday.

Guardiola: “The only way we can extend our league challenge is by winning”

Preseason in Europe

Guardiola also spoke about the decision to stay in Europe next summer. For many years the team has been adapting to the Clubs needs because they look for ways of benefitting it as an institution he said.

Josep Guardiola is treating Saturdays clash with Levante with the utmost importance. He knows that the next league fixture, against leaders Real Madrid, will be much more difficult than people seem to think and therefore Ill playing what I think is the strongest team and that can adapt best to the opponent and the ground. Although he has a crucial Champions League semi final against Chelsea to worry about in addition to the clsico, he is not even contemplating the idea of resting any of his stars. We know its difficult but we want to extend our league challenge and to do that we have to play the best team we can if the difference was ten points we could make one competition a priority, but given the situation we are in, the game with Levante is more important.

In La Liga, he believes it is essential for his team to stay within at least four points of the lead. If we dont win the game against Levante, well have nothing to play for against Madrid he said. We would lose the little chance we have There is only one way to extend competitions, and thats by winning.

Puyol going strong at 34

The manager also spoke about Carles Puyol, who turned 34 today. After congratulating his captain, Guardiola said hes the kind of player whose fitness will tell him when he has to stop. His desire has hardly changed at all since the day he started. If injuries are kind to him, his career can carry on for some time.

He was also pleased to welcome Afellay back from a long-term injury. Its one more man for the cause. Now hes got to work hard to get back in the team.

And finally, words for Abidal, who is recovering from his liver transplant. The information we have received says that everything has gone to plan, that there have been no nasty shocks. Thats the best news.

Spanish League Round Up Week 32

Atletico Madrid are still waiting to win a Madrid derby this century after they were sunk by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick on Wednesday night. Despite Falcao pulling back Ronaldos first half opener, the Portuguese star scored two more before setting up Callejon for Madrids fourth. Xabi Alonso picked up a yellow card which will see him miss this weekends game against Sporting, but ensures he will be available for the trip to the Camp Nou.

Valencia back in third

Rayo scored six without reply on Sunday, but they went down to a heavy 4-1 defeat at Valencia on Wednesday as Emerys team retook third spot. Malaga again slipped up at a vital moment, going down 2-1 at Villarreal, which leaves them fourth, two points behind Valencia. With just over five minutes to go it looked as if Santi Cazorlas goal for Malaga was going to be enough to give them the points, but late goals from Senna and Hernan Perez ensured that Villarreal put some space between them and the bottom three, whilst Pellegrinis team are just two ahead of Levante, with visits to Osasuna, Bara and Atletico Madrid, as well as a crucial six pointer at home to Valencia to come before the end of the season.

Levante slip up ahead of Bara game

Levante didnt enjoy an ideal preparation for Baras visit this weekend, going down 3-2 away to Sporting , as Clementes men twice came from behind to give themselves the slightest glimmer of hope. Sporting are now on 28 points, seven behind Villarreal in 17th and level with Zaragoza, who were beaten 3-0 at Seville, whilst Racing never recovered from a first minute goal by Mallorca and went down 0-3 – their seventh defeat in their last eight games- to remain on 25 points.

Seville threatening

Sevilles win – with two more goals from Alvaro Negredo was their fifth on the run since they lost 0-2 to Bara and puts them very much back in line for a European place, just a point behind Osasuna, on 46, and with Levante (who visit the Sanchez Pijuan in a fortnights time), Malaga and Valencia very much in their sights. Osasuna bounced back well from their nightmare against Rayo, beating Espanyol 2-0 with both goals by Raul Garcia and after taking just three points from their last five games and with tough matches against Valencia, Atletico, Bara and Seville coming up, it looks as if Espanyols hopes for a European place may have to wait for yet another season.

Death overshadows Bilbao point

Bilbaos 2-2 draw in Granada was overshadowed by the news that one of their young supporters had died from injuries received from a rubber bullet fired by police at fans following the game against Schalke 04. A number of Bilbao players attended the funeral.

In the other midweek game, neither Real Sociedad nor Betis were able to clinch the win that would probably secure safety and the longed for 40 points, with both teams sharing the points after a 1-1 draw at Anoeta that leaves the Basques on 38 and Betis on 39.

Ciutat de València, a ground that brings back memories

Bara are returning to the Ciutat de Valncia on Saturday, the same place where less than a year ago, on May 11, 2011, they won La Liga for the third consecutive year. Keita put FCB ahead with a wonderful header but shortly before half time Felipe Caicedo pulled the home side level. But the point was ultimately all Barcelona needed to secure yet another championship title.

History repeating

It was the same story as six years earlier, in 2004/05, when Bara mathematically clinched the title with three games to go, and once again on the back of a tie. That time Levante took the early lead through Alberto Rivera, but a second half goal from Samuel Etoo secured the all important point. With Frank Rijkaard as manager and Ronaldinho as the main star, that was the start of three wonderful years in which the Catalans won two Ligas, one Champions league and two Spanish Supercups.

Difficult games

Apart from two games played at the Ciutat de Valncia in the 1960s, which ended in a 5-4 Bara win (1963-64) and a 5-1 defeat (1964-65), Baras last four games at Levante have included three draws, all 1-1, in 2004-05, 2006-07 and 2010-11, and one 4-1 away win (2007-08).

So, with an all-time record of two wins, three draws and one defeat, Bara are going to the Ciutat de Valncia just as Levante are enjoying their most successful season ever, and knowing that this wont be an easy game. Pep Guardiola already made that clear after the Getafe match when he said the games against Rayo and Levante will decide the league.

Barça’s captain, @Carles5Puyol, turns 34 today. Happy birthday, Carles!

FC Barcelonas captain Carles Puyol was born 34 years ago today. The captain has a lot to celebrate as he completes another year with Baras first team. For Guardiola, Puyol is the centerpiece of the teams defence, in the last 7 matches hes figured in the starting line-up 6 times; of the last 30, hes led the team 24 times.

The player with the second most games

Its worth noting that Puyol has played the second most matches in Club history (552), the only player to have played more official matches for FC Barcelona is his teammate Xavi Hernndez (621). In fact, Puyol reached this mark recently. It was when he played in the Champions League quarterfinal against Milan (3-1).

More goals than ever

Despite his age, this has been a fantastic season for the Catalan captain. While proving to be dependable on defence, the player has also shown to be dangerous on offence as well. In fact, Puyol has set a new personal record this year: hes scored four goals this season – two in the Liga and two in the Cup – besting the his personal tally set in the 2001/02 and 2006/07 seasons, where he scored two goals. Happy birthday, Puyol!