Barça play hosts to Levante in La Liga tomorrow evening (Saturday 8 pm) though thoughts will undoubtedly be focused on the Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich on Tuesday. With just nine points needed from the remaining seven league games to clinch the league title it seems sure that Tito Vilanova and Jordi Roura will rest players tomorrow with the Allianz Arena in mind.
Leo Messi trained with the group today and Roura indicated in this lunchtime’s press conference that the Argentinian is not ruled out for tomorrow’s game. However, it would seem more prudent to keep him on the substitutes bench and have him raring to go in Munich. Sergio Busquets is also back in contention after missing last week’s 0-3 victory at Zaragoza but José Manuel Pinto continued to train alone as he tries to recover from his back problems.
The main problem for Tuesday continues to be in defence. Despite positive reports on the recuperation process of Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol it seems highly unlikely that either of them can make it back in time. With Adriano Correia suspended and Eric Abidal continuing his particular slow return to normality it looks like the centre-back pairing against Bayern will be formed by Gerard Piqué and Marc Bartrá. With this is mind Vilanova may want to give the pair another chance to play together tomorrow in order to improve their understanding.
Levante are currently in 12th place in La Liga on 40 points which leaves them very little to play for in their remaining games. They are 13 points above the relegation zone which makes them more or less safe already, while any chance of a late push for a place in Europe next season seems to have gone out of the window following defeats in their last two matches, at Madrid (5-1) and at home to Deportivo (0-4).
In eight visits to Camp Nou Levante have yet to win a single point. If they want to change this they will need a big improvement on recent performances. On Thursday Levante’s coach Juan Ignacio Martínez announced he would make changes to his team. Vicente Iborra is suspended which could see Loukas Vyntra partnering Pape Diop in midfield, Pedro Lopez could replace Cristian Lell at right-back, the Morrocan Nabil El Zhar might get a chance instead of Pedro Rios, while Roger Martí may be preferred to the Italian Robert Acquafresca at centre-forward.
Last season’s corresponding fixture ended with a handsome 5-0 home win thanks to goals from Fabregas (2), Cuenca, Messi and Alexis, while earlier this season Barça earned a comfortable 0-4 victory at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium with goals from Messi (2), Iniesta and Fabregas. Barça will have a final training session tomorrow morning behind closed doors at Camp Nou.
Barça: Valdés; Montoya, Bartrá, Piqué, Adriano; Thiago, Song, Iniesta; Alexis, Fabregas, Tello.
Levante: Munua; Pedro López, Ballesteros, Navarro, Juanfran; Vyntra, Diop; El Zhar, Barkero, Rubén; Roger Martí.
Prediction: Barça 3 Levante 1
Date: Saturday 20 April 2013. Kick off 8 pm local time.