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Back Barcelona to win in the Caesars sportsbook.
The Blaugrana have kept things tight in the back in recent weeks and another clean sheet should be theirs for the taking.
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If only Xavi Hernandez had taken charge of Barcelona a few weeks earlier. The Blaugrana are a team transformed under the guidance of their former midfielder, who has exceeded expectations since he was appointed as the permanent successor to Ronald Koeman in early November.
Had the season started then, Barcelona would be on course to win the La Liga title.
They have amassed 40 points in their 17 matches under Xavi; Real Madrid have taken 42 in the same period but have played one game more than their arch-rivals. If Xavi had been installed in the Camp Nou dugout last summer, Barcelona might be sitting pretty at the summit of the standings right now.
Soccer does not always work that way, but it is impossible to deny that Xavi is doing a fantastic job. Some questioned whether a lack of experience would count against him. His only previous job in management came with Al Sadd in Qatar – a vastly different environment to Barcelona.
Yet Xavi has shown himself to be an astute coach. He has given the team an identity again. Results have been excellent but performances have been just as good, which suggests their recent form is sustainable.
Barring an improbable collapse from Real Madrid in the coming weeks, Barcelona will not win the league this season. They look well placed to finish second, though – nothing for a club of their size to shout about, but a marked improvement for a side that sat ninth when Xavi was brought in.
It is still not clear what sort of money will be available to spend in the transfer market this summer, but as things stand Barcelona look strong enough to push Madrid all the way next term. For neutrals who want to see a title race, that can only be a good thing.
Levante cannot afford to look ahead to next season. The club from Valencia do not know which division they will be playing in at the start of 2022/23, although their survival hopes are fading with every defeat. With eight rounds of fixtures still to play, Levante are 19th in the table and six points adrift of safety. Avoiding relegation from La Liga will be a tough ask.
The Granotes were always expected to be there or thereabouts in the basement battle. The pre-season odds had them as the joint-sixth favorites to fall through the trapdoor, available at the same price as Osasuna (who currently sit 10th).
Levante finished 14th last season, comfortably clear of the bottom three, but the way they ended the campaign was concerning: Paco Lopez’s side lost five and drew three of their final eight matches.
The worry was that they would carry that poor form into this season – and that is exactly what happened.
It took until January 8 for Levante to register their first win, by which time Lopez had been replaced by Javier Periera, who lasted for seven weeks before Alessio Lisci was appointed in his stead (it was the Italian who oversaw that long overdue victory over Mallorca).
Levante have now won four matches under Lisci, including unanticipated triumphs over Atletico Madrid and Villarreal.
Since the middle of February, only the big three and Real Sociedad have accumulated more points. Yet Levante are nevertheless running out of time to pull themselves out of trouble, and a meeting with Barcelona is the worst possible game for them this weekend.
A 1-0 victory over Sevilla last time out was a sixth success on the bounce for Xavi’s side. They have kept a clean sheet in four of those, and in each of the other two matches the Blaugrana only conceded one goal. It was Barcelona’s dazzling attacking play that caught the eye in the recent 4-0 thrashing of Real Madrid, but Xavi will have been equally delighted with how his team defended in the Clasico.
Levante have found the net in each of their last eight matches and have had little trouble creating chances under Lisci. Doing so against Barcelona will be a much tougher task, however, not least because Levante will go long periods of Sunday’s match without the ball. If they are to get anything out of this game, the hosts will need to be clinical whenever they do get possession in the final third.
The way Barcelona are playing, though, means an away win is by far the most likely outcome. Back Xavi’s men to keep a clean sheet too.
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|Levante vs Barcelona Information|
|Teams||Levante vs Barcelona|
|Location||Estadio Ciudad de Valencia, Valencia, Spain|
|Time||Sunday, 10 April 2022, 8.00 PM EDT|
|How to watch||ESPN+|
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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