Evening all and welcome to Sports Mole
's live commentary of the first leg of the Copa del Rey
last-16 clash between Levante
and Barcelona from Valencia. Barcelona won their 30th Copa del Rey title last season and will fancy their chances of overcoming a Levante team that has not progressed past this stage of the competition since 2014. Barcelona ran out 5-0 winners when they travelled to Levante in the league on December 16, but the Frogs did record a 5-4 victory when the pair met in Valencia last season. Stay tuned!
LEVANTE: Aitor; Cabaco, Postigo, Chema; Coke, Rochina, Prcic, Campana, Simon; Mayoral, Boateng
BARCELONA: Cillessen; Semedo, Murillo, Chumi, Miranda; Busquets, Vidal, Alena; Coutinho, Dembele, Malcom
The big team news for Barcelona is that there is a debut for central defender Jeison Murillo, who recently joined the club on loan from Valencia. Murillo is joined by Chumi and Juan Miranda at the back, while Nelson Semedo also returns. Carles Alena, as expected, is handed a midfield spot, while Sergio Busquets and Arturo Vidal also start in the middle of the park. Philippe Coutinho, Malcom and Ousmane Dembele will be the front three for the visitors tonight.
As for Levante, fit-again duo Cheick Doukoure and Pedro Lopez are back on the bench, while head coach Paco Lopez had no injury concerns from the team that drew against Girona at the weekend. On-loan Real Madrid forward Borja Mayoral starts in attack, while Emmanuel Boateng, Moses Simon and Aitor Fernandez are all handed opportunities to impress tonight.
As mentioned, Barcelona ran out 5-0 winners when they travelled to Levante in the league on December 16, but the Frogs did record a 5-4 victory when the pair met in Valencia last season. Barcelona have won six of the last seven La Liga meetings, however, and recorded a 9-2 aggregate victory when the two teams last locked horns in the Copa del Rey back in 2014.
KICKOFF: Barcelona kick things off in Valencia...
... Barcelona landed their 30th Copa del Rey crown last season and have been utterly dominant in this competition in recent years. Indeed, the Catalan giants have lifted the trophy in each of the last four campaigns and have been present in all but one of the last eight finals, which is some record. Levante have a job on their hands to knock the holders out of the competition this season, that is for sure.
Barcelona have beaten Athletic Bilbao, Sevilla (twice) and Alaves in the last four finals, with their last defeat occurring in the 2014 final against Real Madrid. It has almost been the go-to competition for the Catalan giants in recent years, but they will be desperate to land yet another crown. It has been a fairly open start to the match with both teams enjoying possession.
GOAL! LEVANTE 1-0 BARCELONA (CABACO)
Levante take the lead in the fourth minute as Cabaco rises highest inside the Barcelona box to head a Rochina free kick into the back of the net. Massive goal for the home side!
Barcelona had no problems overcoming Cultural Leonesa in the last round, ultimately running out 5-1 aggregate winners to advance to the last-16 stage of the competition once again. Levante, meanwhile, beat Lugo in the round of 32 to progress to this stage. Levante have taken first blood in this last-16 tie with that Cabaco goal, but there is still a very, very long way to go.
SAVE! Cillessen gets down to keep out a curling effort from Boateng!
Levante are currently on a four-game winless run in all competitions and as mentioned, that includes a 5-0 home defeat to Barcelona in La Liga on December 16. The Frogs actually played quite well for periods of the match, but Barcelona were at their clinical best to claim all the points with an emphatic win. Just a few signs of a response from Barcelona at the moment.
It will not come as a surprise to learn that Levante have never won the Copa del Rey, while they have not been past the quarter-finals since 1935. Facing Barcelona at this stage of the competition is not exactly ideal, but a positive result in the first leg on home soil would certainly make things interesting ahead of the return at Camp Nou. Still 1-0 to Levante here.
SAVE! Incredible chance for Levante to double their lead as Coke delivers a wonderful cross into the Barcelona box and Boateng looks to finish, but Cillessen makes the save!
Barcelona's defence is a bit all over the place at the moment to be honest.
Excellent defending from Postigo as the Levante defender manages to head a Dembele free kick over his own crossbar. Nothing much from Barcelona in terms of chances at the moment.
Coutinho dances into the Levante box before looking to pick out the back of the net, but the offside flag is raised. Much better from Barcelona though. Still 1-0 to the home side.
GOAL! LEVANTE 2-0 BARCELONA (MAYORAL)
Oh my word! Levante double their lead in the 18th minute as Mayoral is found by Boateng inside the Barcelona box and the on-loan Real Madrid forward manages to squeeze the ball past two defenders and Cillessen into the back of the net! What a moment!
Well, not many would have expected this! Barcelona are in loads of bother here!
SAVE! Aitor keeps out a low strike from Coutinho!
SAVE! Wonderful save from Aitor to keep out a strike from Malcom, who had been slipped into a one-on-one. Two big moments for Barcelona in the last couple of minutes.
YELLOW CARD! Murillo (Barcelona) is booked for a foul on Mayoral.
SAVE! Comfortable for Aitor this time as he saves from Alena.
I would be astounded if we had seen the last of the goals tonight as both teams continue to commit players in the final third. Levante have a slight concern over Boateng at the moment.
Boateng is back on his feet and will be fine to continue following a head injury. It must be said that the first 28 minutes of this match have flown past. What a half it has been for the hosts.
Not an awful lot to report in terms of chances in the last few minutes. Levante have been on the front foot since our last update, but Cillessen has not had another save to make.
Just a reminder that the second leg of this last-16 tie will take place at Camp Nou next week. Even it finished 2-0, Barcelona would still fancy their chances of turning it around.
Levante continue to more than hold their own here. Mayoral in particular has been impressive for the home side; Real Madrid could do with the centre-forward at the moment!
Possession football from Barcelona at the moment as the first period draws closer. We have not seen too much from Coutinho, Dembele and Malcom as a front three in this match.
SAVE! Aitor is on hand to make another save, this time to deny Dembele.
YELLOW CARD! Alena (Barcelona) is booked for a poor tackle on Rochina.
SAVE! Cillessen manages to keep out a strike from Mayoral as Levante come close again!
YELLOW CARD! Prcic (Levante) is booked for a foul on Vidal.
YELLOW CARD! Chumi (Barcelona) is now booked for pulling Boeteng to the deck.
CHANCE! Barcelona have been all over the place at the back in this first period. Another opportunity falls for Mayoral inside the box, but the striker smashes wide!
CHANCE! Malcom just fails to meet a deflected cross from Dembele!
Levante are on the front foot with a corner as we enter stoppage time.
Cillessen has just thrown himself to the ground inside the Barcelona box. The Dutchman looked to be elbowed by Chema, but the referee wants play to continue here.
HALF TIME: LEVANTE 2-0 BARCELONA
So there we have it. The referee brings the first period to a close with Levante leading Barcelona 2-0 courtesy of goals from Cabaco and Mayoral. Barcelona have had their moments in the final third of the field, but Levante deserve their lead at the interval here.
STATISTICS! Barcelona had 61% of the ball in the first period, while they managed five attempts, three of which were on target. Levante had seven attempts and five of those were on target. Four yellows to report here - Prcic, Murillo, Alena and Chema. Plenty has happened!
BENCH WATCH! Arthur, Denis Suarez and Sergi Roberto are among those on the Barcelona bench tonight, but the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez are absent. Levante, meanwhile, have options in the shape of fit-again duo Doukoure and Pedro Lopez. Jose Luis Morales is also on the home side's bench and he is one of the most dangerous attackers in La Liga.
KICKOFF: Levante resume the action here...
... BARCELONA SUB! Miranda has been replaced by Roberto. Miranda struggled in the first half and it is not too much of a surprise to see the defender replaced.
SAVE! Cillessen is down to keep out a long-range strike from Rochina.
YELLOW CARD! Cabaco (Levante) is booked for bringing Dembele to the deck.
I would be very surprised if Barcelona did not score at least once in the second period, but Levante will also fancy their chances of registering another down the other end of the field.
Barcelona are having a lot of chances to break into the Levante half of the field, but the final pass from the away side has been disappointing tonight. Still 2-0 to the home side.
SHOT! Coutinho's strike from distance was always missing the target.
SAVE! Cillessen is down to keep out another strike from Mayoral!
SAVE! Another save from Cillessen, this time to keep out an effort from Simon.
Barcelona's defence is still all over the place here as Levante continue to cause problems. When Gerard Pique does not play Barcelona are just not the same team at the back.
BARCELONA SUB! Lenglet replaces Chumi for Barcelona.
Simon dances past a couple of challenges before looking to test Cillessen was once again, but the winger's strike is blocked. Little under 30 minutes of football remaining here.
Levante are preparing to make their first change of the match and it will be the excellent Morales, which is the last thing that Barcelona need. Might be Boateng going off here.
LEVANTE SUB! Morales replaces Boateng for the home side.
CHANCE! Huge chance for Levante to score a third as Morales breaks into the Barcelona box, but the winger's effort is saved over the crossbar by Cillessen!
Barcelona could have conceded three or four tonight quite easily. It remains 2-0 and you do get the feeling that the Spanish champions will have one or two big chances late on here.
BARCELONA SUB! Denis Suarez replaces Malcom.
LEVANTE SUB! Jason replaces Chema for the home side.
Fernandez manages to gather following a period of uncertainty inside the Levante box. Coutinho and Dembele were both involved, but it ended in disappointment for the visitors.
Morales drives down the right before firing a low cross into the box, but Busquets is on hand to make the clearance. Morales's pace is the last thing that Barcelona need to face here.
YELLOW CARD! Busquets (Barcelona) is booked for a foul on Jason.
LEVANTE SUB! Doukoure replaces Rochina for the home side.
You do get the feeling that there is another goal in this match. A third for Levante would make it very tough for Barcelona to bounce back next week, but 2-1 would be a different story.
Little over 10 minutes of the second period remaining and Barcelona are having a lot of the ball at the moment as they continue to pass and probe in the final third of the field.
Smart defending from Murillo to sweep a deep cross away for a throw-in.
SAVE! Fernandez keeps out a low strike from Dembele.
Little over five minutes of the second period remaining and Levante still lead 2-0. Just a reminder that the second leg of this last-16 tie will take place at Camp Nou next week.
PENALTY! Barcelona have a penalty as Denis Suarez is felled by Coke!
GOAL! LEVANTE 2-1 BARCELONA (COUTINHO, PEN)
Coutinho sneaks the ball past Fernandez for 2-1!
Levante are holding on now as Barcelona continue to pass and probe in the final third.
You would have to make Barcelona favourites to progress next week. At 2-0, Levante would have had something to clutch onto, but 2-1 is completely different. And we are not finished.
We are into the first of three minutes of added time at the end of the match.
Not much happening in the third minute of added time at the end of the 90. Coutinho's penalty could be massive for the tie, but Levante are going to win on the night.
YELLOW CARD! Mayoral (Levante) is booked for a late kick on Murillo.
FULL TIME: LEVANTE 2-1 BARCELONA
So there we have it. The referee brings the second period to a close with Levante running out 2-1 winners over Barcelona in the first leg of their last-16 Copa del Rey tie. All to play for in the second leg next week! Thanks for joining Sports Mole once again tonight!