The La Liga title race is heating up with three matches left, and all is at stake for the top three clubs. There were some exciting clashes recently, but the results have not had any substantial effect on the points table. Both the matches involving the top four teams ended in draws, and now it is up to Diego Simeone’s to hold the fort in the last three matches.
Meanwhile, Barca are set to hit the road to play against 14th placed Levante up next, and this is a fixture that Ronaldo Koeman’s men have to win to stay in the title race. The Catalans are coming on the back of a stalemate against Atletico while Levante have also been very sloppy this season as they are winless in the last five matches.
Paco Lopez’s men earned a point against Alaves after a stretch of four consecutive losses. Although Levante are nine points ahead of the relegation zone, they will still like to finish the season on a high, and putting up a good fight against the Blaugranes will be something special.
Coming to team news, it is good news for Koeman that apart from Sergio Busquets, he will have the whole roster available for the match against Levante. Busquets, who started the match against Atletico picked up a facial fracture after his clash of heads with Stefan Savic. However, he tried to brave the pain and play on but was soon replaced by Ilaix Moriba. So the veteran Spaniard will miss this fixture, but considering the options, Koeman won’t mind Moriba starting in the middle of the park with Frenkie De Jong taking up the deeper role.
Apart from that, Philippe Coutinho and Ansu Fati are out with long term injuries and are not returning back this season. However, Martin Braithwaite has made a lot of progress and will be available for selection.
On the other hand, Lopez will miss the services of midfielders Nikola Vukcevic and Nemanja Radoja as both are nursing injuries. However, Spanish midfielder Jose Campana has received his discharge and will be in the squad only if he passes the fitness test.
The veteran Spanish winger Jose Morales has been a metronome for the Granites this season. Morales has netted 12 goals this season along with three assists and have more importantly he has scored important goals. He is someone who likes to take on defenders and can create chances out of nothing. Morales also scored a brace in his latest 2-2 draw against Alaves. The 33-year-old is a player who can give Koeman some headaches and will also keep the Barcelona defenders on their toes.
The former Real Madrid Castilla graduate Jorge de Frutos has been a top performer for the underperforming Levante. He has shown great consistency throughout the season and has made the right flank his own. The 24-year old can be a menace on the right channel, especially with his blistering pace and great ability to send in crosses. The youngster has registered as many as eight assists till now along with four goals in the La Liga.
Lionel Messi has been one of the strongest driving forces for Barcelona this season, and we simply cannot count him out whenever the Catalans take the field. Although the last match ended in a goalless draw, the Argentine forced a few saves out of Jan Oblak and looked like scoring. He will look to add to his tally for this season and hand the Catalans with a crucial win.
In the absence of Busquets, Frenkie De Jong will look to slot in that deeper role in midfield, and that is why he is one of the key players for the visitors. The Dutchman will have to break up plays, facilitate the ball and play a very important role in the buildups. He did not look the most comfortable against Atletico, and therefore he needs to sort things out in the middle of the park.
After a disappointing draw against Atletico Madrid, the Catalans will be looking to end the season on a high note as they are still in with some hope. On the other hand, Levante have been struggling in the last few matches, and it will be an uphill task for Paco Lopez’s men.
However, in the previous meeting, Barcelona won by a solitary goal, and it was very close. But considering the current form of both the teams, Barcelona are clear favourites. Lionel Messi’s red-hot scoring form combined with Antoine Griezmann’s efficiently timed attacks could prove to be a real threat for Levante. Barcelona’s defence has also been doing pretty well, and that only makes their case stronger in this encounter.