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3 points to ponder: Why Barcelona beat Levante (includes video highlights)

Barcelona took another three points after a comfortable 4-1 win against Levante on Camp Nou on Sunday, continuing the perfect start of the season with yet another strong performance.

Luis Enrique made several changes in the lineup, compared to the team that started against Roma in the Champions League on Wednesday. Dani Alves returned after an injury and reclaimed his right back position from the in-form Sergi Roberto. Marc Bartra was chosen to replace Gerard Pique, who served his last of the 4-game suspension, and partnered with Javier Mascherano in the centre of Barca’s defence.

Jordi Alba was replaced by Adriano in a rare start for the Brazilian this season, while Sandro and Munir gave a deserved rest to Andres Iniesta and Luis Suarez. Luis Enrique chose to play Messi behind the attacking trio Neymar - Sandro - Munir, a position often quoted by the Argentinian as his favourite.

Barcelona dominated the ball in the first half with a complete control of the possession, however the passing in the final third of the pitch was not simply good enough. Sandro was hardly visible during the first 45 minutes of the game, while Neymar found it difficult to have an impact other than missing a chance in the 21st minute. Munir was the most active of the attacking trio, endangering Levante’s goal with a clear chance in the 28th minute which was saved by Ruben Martinez.

The second half, however, started great for the Catalans with Bartra giving them the lead with a goal five minutes after the break. The defender showed great control after receiving Messi’s cross in the penalty box and had no trouble putting the ball in the back of the net.

Neymar was quick to double the lead for Barcelona in the 56th minute after a series of ricochets in the Levante’s box while also earning a penalty which Messi converted for 3-0 five minutes later.

Levante managed to return a quick goal after taking advantage of Ter Stegen’s mistake, but it was not enough to turn the game around.

In the 75th minute Messi had another chance to convert a penalty, but he put the ball over the bar - missing his second penalty in a month after the one against Bilbao.

However, the Argentine quickly capped off his superb performance by scoring his second goal in the game in the 91st minute after finishing a typical Messi brake with a shot in the left corner.

It was a great night in which Barcelona’s players showed that they can win despite the injuries in the squad.

Here are the three reasons why Barcelona beat Levante:

Messi continued on fire

Messi thrived in his favourite enganche position. He was the main driving force behind the team, directing the game and creating chances. He was involved in every dangerous attack and in every goal in the game. It was obvious that he embraced his position on the field which provided him with more freedom than usual, being able to attack the box from every direction. 

Sure, Messi did miss yet another penalty (taking his career conversion rate to an unimpressive 77%) but his double won Barcelona the game.

Marc Bartra proved his worth

Marc Bartra put up a great performance. He was very confident in defending the goal but also going forward, which proved vital for scoring the first for Barcelona. He showed great stability in the air, clearing several of Levante’s crosses. It was a showcase game for the young defender, very much needed in times as these -- when Enrique is finding it difficult to have a healthy squad and relying on every available player.

Sandro, Munir failed to shine despite starting XI opportunity

The young La Masia players featured tonight didn’t convince their coach with their performance. Both Sandro and Munir showed that they have qualities, but need to work a lot more in order to be reliable back ups for either of Neymar, Messi and Suarez.

Sandro was hardly visible during the whole game with the most memorable moment being his open goal miss in the first half. His frustration was evident on several occasions, but he must embrace this chance and learn from it in order to come back stronger.

Munir was the more active of the two, but still needs more focus and drive. He came close in scoring but Ruben Martinez denied his effort. He was looking for the ball and looked more comfortable in his combination with the rest of the players, compared to Sandro.

However, in order to be considered in games against harder opponents, both Sandro and Munir will have to show a lot more.

By Stefan Satchkov, columnist at Barcablog. Follow him on Twitter @StefanSatchkov


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