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Less than month after they last met in La Liga, Levante and FC Barcelona come face to face once again in the Ciutat de València stadium, this time in the Copa del Rey. The first leg of their last 16 tie takes place on Thursday at 9.30pm CET with the memory of the blaugranes’ 5-0 win back in December still fresh for Paco López’s team. A Leo Messi hat-trick and goals from Luis Suárez and Gerard Piqué completed the win that day with Ernesto Valverde’s team on a run of five consecutive victories, ‘los granotas’ are up against it in the Cup.
Top goalscorer: Roger Martí (8). Coke, Raphael and Mayoral have all found the net in the Copa del Rey.
Previous round: A 3-1 aggregate win over Second Division side Lugo.
Need to know
Barça have won four of their last five meetings against Levante. Their only defeat came last season in La Liga when a 5-4 defeat saw Valverde and his team wave goodbye to their hopes of going the entire campaign unbeaten.
No one has scored more free kicks this season than Barça’s Leo Messi and Levante’s Enis Bardhi.
Former blaugranes Oier Olazábal and Rubén Rochina are amongst the Levante squad.
The teams have met in the Copa del Rey twice in recent years: in 2004 Barça last 1-0 in the first leg but came from behind to win 3-1 in the second leg thanks to goals from Iniesta, Saviola and Ronaldinho.
10 years later FC Barcelona had it a little bit easier with a 4-1 in the away leg, which included a hat-trick from Cristian Tello, and a 5-1 win at home.
Barça boss Ernesto Valverde is not expecting an easy ride away in Valencia: "It's an open tie. We start as favourites but Levante are a good side and they will push us as they did in the league game"
Valverde's 18-man list
The squad for the game was named on Wednesday evening after training. The likes of Piqué, Rakitic, Suárez, Messi, Jordi Alba and Munir are all rested, whilst Rafinha, Samper, Umtiti and Vermaelen are missing due to injury. The game could see debuts for Murillo and Wague.
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