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A unusual kick-off time against a struggling but much-changed opponent are among the discussion points as FC Barcelona prepare to complete an astonishing 28 games without defeat.
TIME FOR CHANGE
Barça fans around the world will be adjusting their schedules for what is an unusual Sunday noon kick-off CET. In the Americas, it either means staying up ridiculously late on Saturday or getting up in the small hours of Sunday morning. In the Far East and Oceania, however, it means the rare luxury of a Barça game at a sensible evening time.
In Europe, it simply means readjusting our schedules a little – for a lot us, our concern instead is staying up all night Sunday to watch the Superbowl!
Levante manager, Joan Francesc Ferrer, better known as Rubí, has a Barça past. He gained a fine reputation in charge of a number of clubs around Catalonia, and in June 2013, Tito Vilanova decided to make him a member of his FCB coaching staff.
Shortly after, Vilanova resigned due to his illness, but Rubi stayed at the Camp Nou for the 2014/15 season, assisting Tata Martino, where his expertise at planning set pieces was particularly valued.
Rubi’s side are currently rooted to the bottom of the Liga table with just 17 points from 22 games, and in a bid to turn things round, the club was especially active during the winter transfer window.
Two new players have arrived on frees: Algerian international Carl Medjani joins from Trabzonspor in Turkey and former Barça youth player Joan Verdú , best known for his years at Espanyol, has moved back to La Liga from Fiorentina in Italy, who have also sent Italian international Giuseppe Rossi on loan to the Cuitat de Valencia.
Argentinian defender Lucas Orban is also at Levante on a loan deal, in his case from neighbours Valencia, while striker Mauricio Cuero is set to get his first taste of European football after being signed from La Equidad in his native Colombia.
Since Barça beat Levante 4-1 at the Camp Nou in September, Luis Suárez has played all 90 minutes of every league game. The Uruguayan has enjoyed a trouble-free time since he joined the club from Liverpool, only having suffered one minor injury that still wasn’t enough to keep him out of the starting line-up for the Champions League Final in Berlin.
Playing so many games doesn’t seem to affect him at all. With 35 goals this season, 19 of those in La Liga, he has hit on probably the finest form of his career.
Under Pep Guardiola in the 2010/11 season, Barça went 28 games without defeat to set a new record in Spanish football. If Luis Enrique can avoid defeat in his 100th match in charge, then Barça will equal that tally, and will have the chance to set a new record when they return to Valencia, this time to Mestalla in the cup, on Wednesday.
Questions were asked after Barça were defeated at Sevilla back in October. But it’s safe to say that those doubts have more than been dispelled by yet another historic streak from the boys in blue and red.
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