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La Liga Match of the Week: Barcelona vs. Levante – A New Reign in Spain
La Liga Match of the Week: Barcelona vs. Levante
Sunday 18.08.2013 – 18:00
Footballing action gets underway in Spain once more this weekend and the reigning champions open with a home fixture against Levante. All eyes will be on the Catalan club to see how new signing Neymar impacts on the side, and how the side will line up under coach Gerardo Martino. Levante will be hoping to build on last season’s 11th place finish. They narrowly missed out on Europa League qualification, and will be hoping to go one step further this year, though the task has been made more difficult with personnel change over the summer.
Whilst this game is not the most competitive game in La Liga this week, most of the media attention will be focused on the Catalan club due to the arrivals of Gerardo Martino and Neymar. The Brazilian’s stunning performances at the Confederations Cup highlighted just what a prodigious talent he is, but also raised the question of whether he will be able to (or be willing to) play second fiddle to Messi. This narrative has been the mainstay of press coverage on Barcelona over the summer.
Johan Cruyff has made it clear he doesn’t think they will work well together, telling Marca:
“I wouldn’t put two captains on the same ship“
Neymar himself, however, seems at ease with a secondary role to Messi
“My relationship with Messi is great….I’m sure that there’ll be no problems. He is the leader, the best player in the world, and I am here to help him.“
Messi too seemed keen to downplay any suggestion of a rivalry between the players by saying
“We get on with each other on and off the pitch and we’re getting to know each other little by little. We haven’t played much together. But he’ll bring a lot of joy to the club, to us and to the people.”
It is possible that this weekend may not see the South American superstars paired together with Messi struggling with a muscle injury which saw the Argentine pull out of his country’s 2-1 win over Italy in midweek. The possibility of him missing out pleases Levante goalkeeper Keylor Navas. He told reporters
“Things might be easier for us if Messi does not play. He is the best player in the world, without a doubt. Going to Barcelona is always difficult. Let’s hope that they have still not picked up their usual rhythm.”
Both sides have made managerial changes over the summer. Barcelona was forced to replace manager Tito Vilanova, who sadly suffered a relapse in his battle against cancer. The man to replace him was Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, who made his name in South America. Martino has reportedly been given the Messi family seal of approval, and reputedly had major influence in his appointment. Levante lost manager Juan Ignacio Martinez to Valladolid. His replacement was Joaquin Caparros, who brings with him a wealth of experience having managed over a dozen clubs in over 30 years. Levante have enjoyed an impressive pre-season, and will be hoping to catch the champions cold early in the league campaign.
- Barcelona have won their last 15 home matches in La Liga
- Barcelona have won their last 7 matches against Levante in all competitions
This is a nice opening fixture for a new Barcelona manager to be given, not too tough, but competitive enough to see how the squad are shaping up for the coming season. I feel that the Tata’s side will rise to the occasion and will put on something of a performance, feeling they have something to prove. Both Messi (providing he is fit to play) and Neymar will get on the scoresheet in a comfortable home victory.
Barcelona 4 – Levante 1
How will Martino and Neymar shape up this season? Comment below or tweet us @90minutecynic
Follow Chris on Twitter @Southpaw_83