It’s going to be a very busy start for Barcelona to the 2013-2014 season, with the Spanish Super Cup also coming in the way of their league plans, but with a new manager taking over from a very successful one, winning and impressing on his debut at home against a usually tricky Levante side seems like a must as the season opens in Spain.
The biggest problem for Gerardo Martino, taking over after five seasons with Guardiola and Vilanova that resulted in four league titles and two trophies in the Champions League, is Lionel Messi returning from international duty with a slight injury to his quads. With a very busy opening schedule which includes two matches against Atletico Madrid and the Champions League right around the corner as well, the former Newell’s manager might decide to give him a rest, which hasn’t happened too often in recent years.
Messi isn’t the only player Barcelona might be missing, as Victor Valdes and Dani Alves are both in doubt for the match, even though they’ve returned to normal practice alongside everyone else before the weekend.
Even if Messi does play, there’s a good chance most of the eyes will be turned to Neymar, making his official debut for Barcelona at the Nou Camp, although there’s still a chance Martino will continue to start him off the bench and give Pedro or Alexis the start instead. Cesc Fabregas, with all of the rumors regarding Manchester United’s interest in him, is another player many will be very interested to see on the pitch or on the bench, and how he reacts to the situation.
Levante have lost their previous 8 matches when visiting Barcelona, even though it came down to a very close call last season. They’ll be missing (probably) Pape Diop, but also Christian Lell and Aloys Nong could succumb to previous injuries, leaving them out of the match.
Levante, like most teams in Spain, don’t have money to make big signings in the transfer window, settling for free transfers like Jordi Xumetra and Andreas Ivanschitz. Their best player however, left winger Ruben Garcia, should be fit and ready to try and give Barcelona problems on the counter attack.
Predictions – Without Lionel Messi, Barcelona tend to find themselves in tricky situations in matches that count. However, it’s hard to think of anything but a win for them when they’re playing at home, and Levante, with plenty of new players, have a lot more coming-together to do than Barcelona, who only need to get Neymar up and running, which shouldn’t take too long.