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This Sunday at 4.15pm CEST, Barça are at home to Levante in the third of three Liga fixtures in the space of just one week. Let’s zoom in on the side from Valencia.
Originally founded as the Levante Football Club in 1909, their name means ‘east’ in reference to the geographical location of the city of Valencia were they are based.
Levante did have two seasons in La Liga in the 1960s, but after that spent decades in the lower leagues, sometimes dropping as low as the fourth tier – though that didn’t stop Johan Cruyff from playing ten games for them in 1981.
They finally returned to the top flight in 2004 and although they have been relegated three times since, they have always been quick to bounce back up, finishing as high as sixth in 2011/12.
DID YOU KNOW?
Although they have spent most of their history in the shadow of Valencia CF, they are actually the older of the two clubs, although the modern-day UD Levante was formed out of a merger in 1939 with another team, Gimnástico FC.
They kept the Levante name but adopted the Gimnástico colours, which had originally been introduced by a Catalan Jesuit, Narcís Basté, in imitation of those of FC Barcelona.
Granotas (Frogs) is the nickname most often used for Levante. When the merger detailed above took place, Gimnástico were playing at the Estadio de Vallejo. It was located next to an old river bed, home to a large number of frogs, hence the association.
HEAD TO HEAD
Levante have managed to upset Barça more than once in recent years. In May 2017, they won a freakish encounter 5-4 just when it looked like the Catalans were going to complete an entire season undefeated. They also won 3-1 in November 2019 and the last time they met the game ended 3-3.
But all those games were played in Valencia. It’s been a very different story at Camp Nou, where Barça have won every single one of the 15 games, including a 1-0 win last season, Leo Messi scoring the only goal of the game.
Remarkably, home or away, Barça have never failed to score at least one goal against Levante.
Last five games at Camp Nou:
13/12/20 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Levante
02/02/20 (LIGA) Barça 2-1 Levante
27/04/19 (LIGA) Barça 1-0 Levante
17/01/19 (COPA) Barça 3-0 Levante
07/01/18 (LIGA) Barça 3-0 Levante
After finishing 14th last season, Levante’s new campaign has not got off to the most glittering of starts and they are still searching for their first win.
That said, they have only actually lost two of their first six games (away to Real Sociedad and at home to Celta). The other four games have all been draws, including a 3-3 tie with Real Madrid, making them the only side to have taken points off the leaders this season.
Most capped internationals:
Óscar Duarte (Costa Rica, 61), Nikola Vukčević (Montenegro, 44), Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia, 36), Roberto Soldado (Spain, 12), Mickaël Malsa (Martinique, 4), Nemanja Radoja (Serbia, 2), José Campaña (Spain, 1)
Top scorers (Liga 2020/21): José Luis Morales 14; Roger Martí 13, Gonzalo Melero 8, Sergio León 7
Left back Enric Franquesa (pictured above) grew up at La Masia but was traded to the Villarreal reserves after just one league game for Barça B. After spending last season on loan to Girona, he joined Levante in the summer.
Reserve goalkeeper Daniel Cárdenas was also in the Barça academy for a short while.
Paco López never played football in the first division, but gained a solid reputation as a coach at various clubs in the Valencia region, especially in the Villarreal youth set-up.
After managing Levante B, he was made first team manager in 2018 following the sacking of Juan Ramón Muñiz. His very first game in charge was a 5-4 defeat of FC Barcelona.
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