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This Sunday at 9.00pm CET, Barça will be looking to get back to winning ways in LaLiga against Levante at Camp Nou. Frogs, Johan Cruyff and blaugrana jerseys are among the subject matter as we analyse 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.
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.
Levante also beat Barça twice in 2019. The first was a shock 2-1 win in the Copa del Rey, but two goals from Ousmane Dembélé and one from Leo Messi sorted things out a week later. And in La Liga in November, Barça led 1-0 thanks to a Messi penalty, but the hosts ended up winning 3-1.
But those setbacks all happened at the at the Ciutat de Valencia. When the sides have met at Camp Nou there has only been one result: 14 games and 14 wins for Barça, scoring 48 goals and conceding just nine.
The last meeting at Camp Nou was in February, a 2-1 victory with both goals scored by Ansu Fati (and Leo Messi assisting both times)...
Messi has been involved in goals in the last nine games against Levante for a total of 12 (and ten assists as well!).
Levante’s season got off to a dire start, losing four of the first five fixtures, the 3-1 win at Osasuna being the only positive result. This was followed by a run of no fewer than FIVE consecutive 1-1 draws, a curious streak that was finally broken last week by a 3-0 defeat of Getafe, just their second win of the current campaign and enough to squeeze them out of the relegation zone.
Including the aforesaid Johan Cruyff, thirty different players have worn the blaugrana of Barça and Levante over the years, including Oier Olazábal, Sergio García, Frédéric Dehú and Ángel Cuéllar.
Current Levante forward Rubén Rochina, who Blackburn Rovers fans will remember, spent much of his youth at La Masia. Reserve goalkeeper Daniel Cárdenas was also in the Barça academy for a short while.
Most capped internationals: Óscar Duarte (Costa Rica, 54), Nikola Vukčević (Montenegro, 44), Enis Bardhi (North Macedonia, 31), (Mickaël Malsa, Martinique, 4), Nemanja Radoja (Serbia, 2), José Campaña (Spain, 1)
Top scorers 2020/21: José Luis Morales (4), Roger Martí (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 FC Barcelona.
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