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This Saturday at 4.00pm CET, Barça will be looking to extend a 5-match winning streak in La Liga as they travel to the home of the 'granotas' (the frogs) …
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 for them for ten games 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.
Opened in 1969, the Estadi Ciutat de València (City of Valencia Stadium) holds 26,354 people, although it has only been known by that name for the last two decades.
And with the Halloween spirit in the air, let’s hope our players don’t get distracted by spooks. It’s no joke. In 2005, Malaga’s Duda had a simple chance to score against Levante but failed to shoot. He later claimed that he’d been freaked by a ghost that had appeared in his path.
Apparently, the ashes of dead supporters are scattered at that precise point and ground staff have also seen strange figures wandering near the goalmouth at night.
So, if any Barça players miss surprisingly easy chances on Saturday, we’ll know why that is.
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.
HEAD TO HEAD
After returning to the first division, Levante went for 19 games without defeating their ‘blaugrana’ cousins, and had scored just one goal and conceded 32 in the eight games building up to a freakish encounter in May 2017. Barça were just two games away from going an entire Liga season unbeaten – and the unthinkable happened. Levante won 5-4. It was only the second time this century that Barça have leaked five goals in a Liga fixture.
Revenge was gained at the Camp Nou last season when Luis Suárez and Gerard Piqué scored either side of a Leo Messi hat-trick to cruise to a 5-0 win, and Barça also won, 1-0 at the Ciutat de Valencia, Messi getting the only goal.
There is no particular pattern to Levante’s form this season. They win some and they lose, home or away, recently having followed home defeat to Espanyol with an away win at Real Sociedad.
But it’s been enough to collect enough points to currently lie tenth in the table.
Goalkeeper Oier Olazábal was at FC Barcelona from 2007 to 2014, most of that time with the B team but also the third-choice stopper for the first team.
Forward Rubén Rochina, who Blackburn Rovers fans will remember, also spent much of his youth at La Masia.
Most capped internationals: Óscar Duarte (Costa Rica, 40), Nikola Vukčević (Montenegro, 28), Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia, 25)
Top scorer 2019/20: Roger (3)
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.
As Levante B manager last spring, he was made first team manager following the sacking of Juan Ramón Muñiz. His very first game in charge was the 5-4 defeat of Barcelona.
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