La Liga Betting: Levante v Barcelona



There's a sign at the Ciutat de Valencia, just outside the visitors' dressing room, which says: "This is Levante. You can come here to play, you might win, but you're definitely going to suffer." Barça's arch rivals Real Madrid can testify to this statement, and face a battle on the pitch and a war off it. If you come away with the three points, you have certainly earned it.

Cesc Fàbregas had trouble getting into Russia for Barca's game against Spartak Moscow after taking the wrong passport (which begs the question - how many has he got?), but it's all coming together on the pitch for Barcelona. Lionel Messi continues to find the answers, even when the questions get harder. Real Zaragoza boss Manolo Jimenez said after last weekend's game that "whoever had Messi would have won." Before Tuesday's match 54% of Barça's goals had gone through Messi, and then he bagged a double.

Team news

Juan Ignacio Martínez made eight changes to the side that played in Sweden on Thursday, so the team will be heavily rotated once again. Theofanis Gekas, Dariusz Dudka and Pedro López all miss out through injury.

Alexis Sánchez is out injured for the Blaugrana, whilst Adriano and Thiago could return to the matchday squad after returning to training this week. Carles Puyol and David Villa will probably start, having been rested in Russia.

Form

Juggling between the demands of domestic and European football will test the strength of most squads; just ask Roberto Mancini. For a club of Levante's resources, things are pushed to the absolute limit. They are coping admirably though, as the 3-1 win at Helsingborgs testifies. Their only defeat in nine matches come at the hand of Real Madrid in the swimathon a fortnight ago.

Three is the magic number for Barcelona at the moment: they hit three goals against Zaragoza last weekend and three goals against Unai Emery's Spartak Moscow in the Champions League. Dani Alves scored his first of the season, making him the 13th different Barcelona scorer this season. Things are better at the other end as well: their defence has tightened up with the return of Piqué and Puyol, so the Alex Song at centre-back experiment will quickly be forgotten.

Recent head-to-head

There have been three 1-1 draws in the last five meetings involving the two teams at this ground. Another 1-1 scoreline is at 11.00, while both teams to score is at 2.00.

Goalscorer betting

With eighty goals in the calendar year, the obvious money is on Messi to score at 1.35. For a more profitable bet, the players either side of him are worth consideration. Pedro might not have scored for 21 games, but he provided the through ball for Messi's 2nd versus Spartak and his pressing off the ball sets the tempo for the rest of his team. He's available at 5.75 to get back on track and score first goal. Manchester City have been alerted to the potential unrest of David Villa, who is upset that he isn't involved more following his return from long-term injury. If you think he'll show Tito what he could be missing, he's at 4.50 to open the scoring.

Verdict

This is a test of Barcelona's resolve. If the Madrid teams are to make up ground this is the sort of match they will be looking at with hope. It might be tight, but I can see the Catalans scraping through with a win at 1.25.

Bonus bet

With just 14 goals in the previous five matches at the Ciutat de Valencia between Levante and Barcelona, the games are relatively low scoring considering the attacking talent on show. Especially as the game back in 2007 produced five of those goals. Under 3.5 goals is at 1.62.

Score prediction: Levante 1-2 Barcelona (8.00)