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This Sunday at 9.00pm CET, Barça will go looking to get back to winning ways in LaLiga against Levante at Camp Nou.
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.
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
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 LaLiga 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 league 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.
In November 2019, Barça travelled to the Ciutat de Valencia Stadium and despite taking a lead late in the first half thanks to a penalty from Messi, the hosts ended up winning 3-1. José Campaña scored just after the hour, before Borja Mayoral and Nemanja Radoja completed the scoring.
Levante currently lie 13th in the LaLiga table, having won eight, drawn two and lost 11 of their 21 games this season. They come into this match having lost four of their last five matches in all competitions, and being taken all the way to penalties by Real Jaen in the Copa del Rey, before coming out on top.
Throughout the 2019/20 campaign Levante have struggled to put any sort of run together, and haven't yet won more than two games in a row.
Forward Rubén Rochina, who Blackburn Rovers fans will remember, 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 (9)
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 FC Barcelona.
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