Barcelona – Levante Liveblog

Today is a chance to rest some players for Bayern and make it 2 more wins until the league is clinched. It will also be nice to cast an eye on Abidal’s fitness, and ultimately his future.

Starting XI: Valdes Alves Abidal Adriano Montoya Thiago Song Iniesta Tello Fabregas Villa

Bench: Pinto, Bartra, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Pedro, Sanchez


Liveblog starts shortly before the match at 2:00 PM EST.


    1. There were some diubts about Abidal could again play top flight football. He answeredsll of that. He is currently at may be 60% of his form. I can’t wait to watch him hit 100%.

  1. It’s been some time since the team had to play against such a parked bus, always difficult matches especially when the skill (or in some cases the willingness) to shoot from outside the box is missing. I did like Thiago a lot in the first half, Tello was some good and some rather bad things. The match against Bayern will be a totally different beast.

    A bit puzzled by (excellent) Abi playing 90 minutes soon after coming back from such an exhausting illness + treatment, can’t imagine him starting again on Tuesday in which case Bartra would really have needed those additional minutes for exercise.

  2. Anyone else feeling some trepidation regarding Tuesday? Bayern have been thrashing teams left right and center, even with their B team.

    1. No. For two reasons:

      1. You can’t fret about things you can’t control.
      2. Both Liga sides face German opponents who are almost mirror images of them, but the Liga side plays that same game better. And both Liga sides have the match-changing Great Player.

    2. Trepidation? Nah…
      We fear no one. We may not win, but we never play with fear.

      I know Bayern’s recent results and just how good they are… But my Barca are even better.
      Just wait and watch.

      I feel a special one coming from the boys. Even the return of Abidal has that feel about it, even though he may not start on Tuesday.

      Tots units fem forca.

  3. And by the by, Abidal was absurd today. Let us not forget, even though he didn’t look it, that it has been more than a full calendar year since he played football in anger for Barça. And as much as some want to say “it was only Levante,” the calmness on the ball, ability to read a match and covering pace, as well as almost unerringly picking out the right pass, knocked me out.

    What he is missing is muscle and ultimate match fitness. But for him to be able to play 90 minutes, and play it at the quality that he did. Recall the moment in the second half, where things broke down defensively. Levante were coming up the right side, and Abidal came streaking in from the left, just like he always does, to break things up.

    Clean sheet, and easily the calmest clean sheet the club has had in some time. As with Messi on offense, one player can make a difference on defense, and a significant one. If he can regain full fitness, as I noted on Twitter, he is the CB, short-term, that the club needs.

    1. Absurd is putting it mildly. Even if he hadn’t been missing for a year, it would still count as a great performance.
      My man of the match. He is sooooo calm and composed on the ball. It’s just amazing to watch.
      IMO… Even at 60% match fitness, Eric Abidal is one of the best defenders in the world (CB or LB). He was definitely the best when he left us.

      The reason why he is so influencial for us is because is the perfect defender to weed out speedy counter attacks from opposition teams. And that’s how most of them score on us.
      His speed, composure, long legs and coolness under pressure makes him a perfect counterattack killer/defender.

      He is indeed the defender this club needs and deserves.
      Short term and dare I say even long term if his body can take it.

    2. The thing that impressed me was that his touch hasn’t gone. Technical ability wasnt rusty at all. Good first match.

    1. i will say this was about as easy a 90 minutes you are gonna see a defender play…bayern would be a much different proposition. i see a pique-bartra or pique-adriano starting duo on tuesday, with abidal as a sub. oh, i take that back, adriano suspended i think.

      alves pique bartra alba

    2. i was at the game yesterday, incidentally…

      there are so many tourists. i am one too. this definitely impacts the atmosphere. pretty sure a lot of the people around me didnt even know who abidal was. most people didnt participate in the chants (that would get started somewhere near us) and i felt like was all alone, which made me more quiet. the cheapest ticket yesterday was 46 euros, or about US$60. nosebleeds.

  4. Eric Abidal. His supreme game reading abilities is what we’ve been missing at the back. The little movements that he makes to make himself available. The breathtaking interceptions. The elegant solutions….

    Made of dream stuffs, this man. An absolute inspiration.

  5. About Bayern. Irrespective of how good they are, they’ll have to adjust their game plan, tactics to counter our game. We play our natural game, get the pressing game right, and make fewer errors than them. Simple!

    They are going to dance to our tunes, not the other way around.

    Having showed 3 substandard performances out of the last four CL games, I’m willing to count on the law of average to see us through this time.

    Also the pitch at Allianz Arena is not supposed to act against our favor.

  6. I think they want Abidal fit for the final or Bayern’s Return leg.
    Alba*Abidal*Pique*Alves back four is great once all rested and cohesive.

  7. Abidal was awesome and should start the second leg against Bayern with Pique regardless of what happens in the first leg. If we are in a good position, I wouldn’t mind giving him 10 mins at the end of the first leg either.

    Speaking of which, I see a really great, aggressive performance from us on Tuesday. But just like Bayern haven’t played a team quite like us, we haven’t played a team quite like them. They have quality at every position. So I see a close game. Maybe 2-2 or something.

    1. The commentator notes the same points you have Kevin, Abidal still has the coolness on the ball and the technique.

      Thanks for the video.

  8. Haven’t posted here in a long while. But Eric Abidal’s first full game in a long while (as well) compels me to.

    Barca has been suffering ever since Abidal was put down due to cancer and later had to undergo the transplant.

    His height, pace at the back, cool demeanour without and with the ball, positioning and versatility at CB/LB for me has been irreplaceable. Ever since Abidal went down, Barca’s defense has forever been on the backfoot with even Puyol looking underwhelming (long overdue considering his age) and while Alba’s addition brought in a LB version of Alves, his lack of height severely hurt the Barca system as it was during the best part of the golden years in the past seasons.

    So how did Abidal perform yester-night?

    There was all of that of the whole Abidal still in display. The cool and unencumbered on-the-ball presence even in dangerous areas, the very accurate passing that began Barca’s attacks; the pace that was enough to counter (the admittedly feeble) Levante threat and most importantly the height to add ballast to the defensive line during set pieces.

    In sum, the perfect filler of what Barca had been missing all season and even beyond.

    Yes, Abidal looks very thin compared to his muscular, lithe past and granted again that he played against Levante, which showed literally no attacking intent. (It would have been great if Obafemi Martins was still around or Kone in the Levante squad. They could have offered some threat atleast).

    If Barca stitches the league quickly, Abidal should play in all the remaining games along with the youngsters/ those in the second unit, who will given a test to suggest if they are good enough to come back next season/ or get promoted to the first squad. Kids like Sergi Roberto for e.g.

    And as he gains more match time, he could be a potential starter in a prospective Champions League final, even if he would only play spot minutes in the semi finals.

    The most significant return to the Barca squad and not just for emotional reasons, for me.

    Welcome back, King Abi.

  9. Glad that Abi started but by playing full 90mins, he definitely will be out of the Bayern 1st leg.

    Don’t understand why Alves didn’t get any rest for a quite some time now. He is probably the player with the longest playing streak.

    Oh I’ve been wondering where Ramzi last week and I found him at TB. At least I think it is the same Ramzi.

  10. The new and improved Abidal was freaking out of this world today. Cancer free, a working liver ? 15 pounds lighter and razor sharp. Just being out there changed all the angles for Levante. Magisterial performance to steal one from Messi. Here’s hoping we get to see him shine all the way to the double. Could he actually bail the admin out from not buying a CB last summer?

  11. Man, It’s like he hardly left. This is the kind of defender we have desperately missed. Before he first left to remove the tumor and then the transplant, Abidal, in my eyes was the best defender in the world. He would shut down that left flank all by himself and his calmness and composure on the ball is what we’ve sorely missed from our defenders.

    On Alexis – I’ve said this repeatedly, but I am convinced Barca will not get a player like him. I pray that we do not sell him, more so, to fund a huge gamble in Neymar. But Barca will do what Barca wants and we will just have to wait.

    Now, onto Bayern. Really hope we go back to the basics (rapid ball movement, intense pressing, etc.) If we do, they will not have a chance. Visca.

  12. Question about Neymar: Is he used to playing and scoring against parked buses, or does he counter at pace on the break and then score? Because if it’s the latter then I don’t see him really having a place in our team…

    1. From what I’ve seen most of his goals are on the counter. He is used to being marked by multiple players though, not to mention his close control is ridiculous. I think its waaaaay premature to say he has no place.

      Breaking buses in a system like ours is about fantastic movement, great finishing and individual magic. All qualities he has in abundance.

  13. Abidal was awesome! That first play in which he fooled the Levante attacker had the bar clapping like crazy. I also thought it really touching that he got applause from the Camp Nou every time he touched the ball.

    If that’s the criteria you’re gonna use then the list of attackers that could potentially succeed in our team is very small indeed…

    1. Okay let me restate that and say then is there really a compelling reason to break the bank and go after him? It seems we’re doing the same old thing of buying people for circumstances that they aren’t used to and expecting them to adapt; and it’s not been a very successful policy so far…

    2. Neymar goes past people as if they aren’t there. Same as Messi and Ini. He can also score great goals. What’s not to like?

    3. Don’t think we’re “breaking the bank.” Buzz is that it’s a 45-50m deal. The question is, what can Neymar do, besides implode spectacularly?

      — Associative play. Nobody should consider this blasphemy, but he’s in many ways like an Iniesta that can score goals. His link-up play is exceptional, in that he always plays with his head up, so he can always make the pass.

      — Pace with the ball is crazy. It isn’t as good as Messi’s pace with the ball. Nope. But it would probably become second best on the club.

      — Alba’s life becomes easier. Jordi Alba is a delight of a LB. Now imagine how much better the defense’s life gets if Alba is tracking laterally, as Abidal was yesterday, rather than up and back in attack.

      — Messi’s life gets easier, because the club has one more player who is That Guy, as in “No way are we going to let That Guy beat us.”

      — Playing time. Players with great ball control stretch out moments and attacks. Zidane, because of his control, would wait, and wait, and …. Messi has control that means a play is never over unless he is on the ground, or doesn’t have the ball. Neymar has those same qualities.

      — He is also excellent in close possession, and potentially a great facilitator in our passing game.

      If Rosell manages to pull off this deal, and Neymar has the effect on the play that I suspect he will, any opposition might as well not even field a presidential candidate to run against him in 2016. Every president wants that big signing. Laporta, if everyone will recall, was promising Beckham, and “settled” for Ronaldinho.

      Rosell could well, if the rumors are true, have locked up potentially an extraordinary player, not to mention a player who is that good, atop the fact that Messi is still so young. It also makes the Sanchez decision loom large. There was a story today about a man who isn’t his agent, claiming to be his agent and that Sanchez is going to Juve. Much silliness about that one.

      With Sanchez, Messi and Neymar, I think that our attack would be staggering.

    4. Very insightful views K as usual. However there will be more factors on which Rosell will be judged, namely the defence. Who will he sign.
      Will he adopt a Perez Galatico policy of signing exciting forwards that are ‘good for business’ whilst neglecting the defence
      Also how the transitional period which sees Xavi and Puyol depart and replaced will be scrutinized.
      Off topic
      Has anyone seen Gundogan? Is he a potential successor of Xavi?

    5. 1) The Iniesta comparison is over the top. First of all whatever I have seen off him playing for Brazil, he got pace but he cannot control the match like an Iniesta(actually he hasn’t).

      2) How does Alba’s life become easy? First of all Neymar does not track back that much and whenever he does he is not like Pedro in exerting pressure. Opposition is not going to stop learning from that. They will put the pressure on Iniesta and isolate him, and then try to open up the left wing knowing clearly that Neymar will stay up for majority of the match. So forget lateral movement, against quality opponents we will have Alba in serious trouble.

      3) Messi’s life get easier! That’s a myth. No great team can have two Marquee players. The majority of the game will still run through Messi. Sanchez was supposed to be that kind of player, isn’t it? He was said to offer more than Villa could even imagine. Then why is he struggling?

      Great teams are not made from eleven extra-ordinary players. Instead they are made of a couple of legendary players and the rest above average players whose work rate is always close to 100%.

      Sanchez was playing one of the toughest league in Europe. He still struggled and continue to struggle playing at Barca. We heard a lot of similar argument from many here when his signing was going to happen. Why does everyone think Neymar is going to be different that Sanchez?

      I have to admit that I haven’t watched Neymar much. whatever I have seen off him is with Brazil national team. From that he looks absolutely confused against opponents who are prepared to face him.

      I have a feeling that we will sign him. It’s too much politics not to sign him. Then he will start exactly like Sanchez – Great and when teams prepare for him, we will have some serious debate.

    6. How much clearer could I have been?

      The Iniesta comparison is “over the top” because Iniesta is sainted. Iniesta doesn’t control a match. Xavi controls a match. Messi controls a match at times. Iniesta controls the ball and makes things happen. Nor is it his job to control a match. We would do well to stop investing Barça players with superhuman powers that no mere mortal can everevereverever achieve. Because that just isn’t the case.

      Alba’s life becomes easier because he is an actual defender, instead of a left wing/left back. Seems pretty evident to me.

      “No great team can have two marquee players.” Have you already forgotten the Treble season, in which Barça had THREE marquee players, (Messi, Henry and Eto’o)? Was Messi not a marquee player then? I’ll buy that. But Henry and Eto’o sure were.

      Great teams have so many different compositions that it is impossible to make a hard and fast rule about what comprises a great team. If football has taught us nothing else, it has taught us that.

      Sanchez is not Neymar. Sanchez is Sanchez, the same player who in the past month, has been burning up the pitch. Not coincidentally, Messi has been absent, but that’s another tale for another day. If Sanchez is struggling right now, I want to be there when he starts playing well.

      Fact of the matter is that he, like Song, continues to adapt to a very difficult system. As they improve in adaptation, their level of play goes up. This is happening now, and will continue to happen.

      And then you conclude all of this by saying that you haven’t watched Neymar much. That’s like someone who doesn’t watch television saying that television isn’t good. How can you know? I have made a point to watch him whenever I can this season, as the links to us became clearer. And I went from “Neymar! Pishpash!” to wanting to see what he will bring to the side. I think that will be a lot.

      And if he starts like Sanchez, with double-digit goals and vexing the heck out of RM in his first season, I’ll take it.

    7. No one is saying that Barca players are superhuman. But the Iniesta comparison you made is over the top. Iniesta do control the match, especially midfield and that is the reason why people keep saying not to push him further up in order to accommodate Cesc Fabregas. He may not control the match like Xavi but he do control the match. That’s what makes Xavi and Iniesta the best midfielders of this time. Otherwise there enough midfielders in the world who score more with their eyes closed than these two.

      Alba is not a defender. He is a wing back. Actually he is a winger who was converted to a full back, you could see that from the way he defends. His pace is his biggest asset. Second he is going to play in the left side where his only help will come from Iniesta, now he get help from both Pedro at times and Iniesta. If you are saying that the work done by Pedro defensively is nothing then fine.

      Let’s be honest in Guardiola’s first season was there any Marquee player? Nope. Messi was only starting to emerge. Henry was a total failure till that point and Eto’o never was the Marquee player, he was the perfect supporting player. The situation now is different. A proper comparison would be the season when Henry was signed. That time we had two Marquee players – Henry and Ronnie. It worked really well!

      Great teams are different from each other. But they all share a common thing – they have an identity of their’s own. If you stray from that they just whither away. That’s why Great teams (may be apart from Brazil in 60s and 70s) were not able to continue their success by making decent adjustments. Like Sanchez, the moment he struggles the huge price tag is going to weigh on him.

    1. I hope we can have a back line of Dani Pique Bartra and Abi for Bayern. Barca could use Abi’s height and composure in defense.

    2. The last thing I would do would be to put Abi up against a tricky winger away from home in a CL semi at this stage. We need to keep some perspective here.

    3. Agreed.

      Abi was excellent on Saturday. But we’re in uncharted territory here. There is no precedent for a world class athlete returning from this. Needs to happen step by step and Saturday was a huge step.

      Two games in 4 days would be asking a ton.

      Now for the return fixture…

    4. Agreed! First, Abi was fantastic, exceeded expectations of everyone, possibly save himself. However, I don’t think he was even intended to go the full 90 and only did so because he was so solid and the game required offensive subs. It is nearly unthinkable that Abi would be asked to play another 90 two days later. Even if he was coming back from any normal layoff two games in a few days wouldn’t be expected. That said, based on this game he’s looks like a fantastic choice for the second leg. The contrast with the first leg could be dramatic huh?!? Adriano if he isn’t hurt before is eligible, Abi available and proven, Puyol potentially available, Masche with an outside shout of being available?

      Don’t think anyone who got 90 minutes at the weekend will start tomorrow, aside from dani cause he’s a freak…which takes cesc, villa, abidal, and song out of the starting equation. Again I think they had in mind some different substitutions for the game to get some guys minutes and/or experiment but it shows how much they value the liga that they went to win rather than just to try some things for tomorrow. Barring a back 3 it appears that pique bartra will get the nod. Busi is the outside possibility with song stepping into DM. Otherwise think the lineup is pretty set…
      alves pique bartra alba
      xavi iniesta

      sanchez messi pedro

      my hope is that sanchez plays more in front of messi than from the wing.

  14. Wow. Just watched Suarez biting the Chelsea defender’s arm in today’s match !

    Just a pretty lowlife human being imo. Lucky we didn’t pursue an interest in him. Souness incredulous and scathing.

    1. Just saw this on twitter…


      PepperRooney pizza, Philip Lamb, Shaun Wright Fillets, Julio Cesar salad, Bacary Lasagne, Kieron Ribs, Thomas Mince and Sergio Biscuits


    2. I have to say, having just watched the incident, that I am stunned. For real. He grabbed his arm, and just chowed down. And this after a handball, to boot. Staggering. Absolutely staggering. Football is scathing in its denunciation of him, as well it should be.

    3. Hopefully this should put an end to the “we should be pursuing Saurez” ideas that I have heard here and elsewhere.

      He did this at Ajax, too. Then there was the racial abuse issue. Should be three strikes and you’re out???

    4. That’s true. As much as I like his determination on the pitch, his character wouldn’t be a good fit.

  15. I am bit skeptical about Neymar. May be we should first let him play somewhere else in Europe and then play for us.
    Our history with SA players joining us directly for big sum, havent always been good.

  16. I understand your skeptism, but we either take a shot or we do not.

    Letting him play elsewhere is no option, his profile is so high that he would simply go to another big team. I say we buy him now, and then we are patient with his development over the next year or two.

    By the way, what other SA player has ever joined us directly for such a big sum?

    1. One of the many so called next Maradona : Javier Saviola.

      Barca paid a sum between 33-36 million euros for his service. Never fullfilled that promise.

    2. 12 years ago we bought him, so thats one.

      but i remember it not being nearly that much. wikipedia say 15 million.

    3. Yeah I thought about Javier Saviola also, and I tried to remember how much we paid. 15 million is not that much, nor did many people actually take his “next Maradona” tag all that seriously.

      I think the biggest failure in terms of price paid and expectations (not) lived up to has been Keirrison: 14M for a player who we loaned out for the duration of his contract!

    4. I also use the as a reference, but it seems they are wrong here. I certainly don’t recall such a high transfer fee, but I could be wrong (anyone here remember?)

      The official UEFA website says it was 20M euros(which approaches the 15M british pounds figure ooga aga mentioned).

      Of course 20M was quite a high sum 12 years ago, and you are right in that he ultimately did not live up to the hype, but I don’t think Javier Saviola had quite the profile that Neymar has today.

      Time will tell.

  17. Neymar is a gamble, but honestly its not even that big of a gamble. He has the potential to become a staggering player, maybe not as good as Messi, but certainly in the top 3-4 players in the world. He could also be a huge let down and not live up to all the hype, but for 40m I think it is worth the risk. In the current market this price tag is actually not so crazy.

    If it works, a front 3 of Messi, Neymar and Sanchez would be frankly, unstoppable, i don’t care if they park 3 busses and a plane in front of the goal.

  18. My main reservation is with regards to Defense. I haven’t watched Neymar at all, but since many people rate him so highly, I will not for once doubt his attacking prowess.
    But name me one Brazilian forward who likes to defend. And one that is actually good at it. Hell, even the brazilian defenders would rather attack. So how will this affect our system? Our system in its purest form actually demands a similar workrate from all players. This year we have seen that system being diluted slightly as evidenced by our less intense pressing (a byproduct of messi not defending perhaps?). So with neymar in the mix, kxevin, how do you see the style evolving (because it must evolve certainly) while maintaining our defensive solidity?

  19. FYI Tweet
    @barcastuff: Ten days ago, Barcelona and Santos closed a 40M deal on Neymar (21). Neymar’s father last week discussed personal terms in Barcelona [le10s]

  20. Bayern reportedly agreed terms for the transfer of Goetze for 37 mil euros. That’s one i wanted to see playing with us, though Ozil was much cheaper version of him.

    1. Aaaand there goes the competition for the bundesliga for the foreseeable future. At least la liga has barca and real, the german league is all bayern, how dull…

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