Just three days after the 1-1 draw in La Liga, Levante and Barça meet again at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium tomorrow for the quarter-final first leg of the Copa del Rey. With a semi-final place against Real Sociedad or Racing de Santander at stake, Barça will be looking for a good result to take back to Camp Nou for the second leg on January 29,
The big question for both Tata Martino and Levante coach Joaquin Caparrós is how best to balance cup and league, and tomorrow there should be plenty of changes to the teams that played on Sunday. Caparrós has rested David Navarro, Pape Diop, Simao Mate, Ivanschitz and Ruben Castro, while Martino has left Gerard Piqué and Martin Montoya out of his 18-man squad for the game. Andrés Iniesta has still not fully recovered from his knee injury and he again misses out and Jean-Marie Dongou gets another chance with the first team. Levante demonstrated their solidness in defence on Siunday and so far in this season’s Copa del Rey they have only conceded one goal in four matches. They beat Recreativo 4-1 on aggregate in the last 32 and then earned a place in the quarter-finals with a 1-0 aggregate win over Rayo.
This is the fifth time Barça have faced Levante in the Spanish cup. The first confrontation between the sides was is 1926 with Barça winning 9-1 on aggregate over the two games. Levante gained revenge in 1935 beating Barça 3-0 in a play-off match after two draws couldn’t separate the teams. The next meeting was in the 1942/43 season when Barça qualified easily after a 2-3 away win in the first leg played at Mestalla and an 8-1 hammering in the return at Les Corts. It was later in competition in the same season that Barça lost 11-1 to Real Madrid after one of Franco’s stooges, the director of state security José Finat y Escrivá de Romani, (pictured above meeting Hitler) entered the Barça dressing room before the game and threatened the Barça players by telling them “do not forget that some of you are playing only due to the generosity of the regime that has forgiven you for your lack of patriotism”.
The most recent cup encounter between Levante and Barça was in 2004. Levante caused a surprise by winning the first game 1-0 at the Ciutat de València stadium but Barça qualified for the next round after goals from Iniesta, Saviola and Ronaldinho gave Barça a 3-1 victory in the return game at Camp Nou.
Finally, the big news this week is obviously the decision to ask members to vote on the possible reformation of Camp Nou. The project is estimated to cost €600 million which is half the estimated price of building a new stadium, a possibility which has been discarded. The work would begin in May 2017 with the target of finishing in February 2021. Barça would continue to play at Camp Nou as the plan is to reconstruct the stadium in sections. Barça director Javier Faus claimed the project could be financed over eight to ten years and left open the possibility that the stadium could take the name of a sponsor and thus be known as “Camp Nou Coca-Cola or Camp Nou Intel”. The vote on the project will take place on the weekend of 5/6 April and, if the early opinion polls mean anything, the project looks like being accepted by a comfortable majority.
Levante’s 18.man squad: Navas, Javi Jiménez, Pedro López, Nagore, Vyntra, El Adoua, Juanfran, Nikos, Pallardó, Pedro Ríos, Xumetra, Sergio, Camarasa, Jordi César, El Zhar, Ángel, Nong, Barral.
Barça’s 18-man squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba, Song, Busquets, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Dongou, Tello.
Levante: Javi Jiménez, Nagore, Vyntra, El Adoua, Jordi César; Xumetra, Sergio, Camarasa, Pedro Ríos; Ángel, Barral.
Barça: Pinto; Alves, Bartra, Puyol, Adriano; Sergi Roberto, Song, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Tello.
Prediction: Levante 1 Barça 2.
Date: Wednesday 22 January 2014. Kick-off 10 pm local time.