Barcelona start the first weekend of La Liga fixtures in 2018 sitting pretty at the top of the table and know they have the title in their own hands this season. Ernesto Valverde’s team currently have a 9-point lead over second place Atletico Madrid and perhaps more importantly, a 14-point lead over defending champions Real Madrid, which all but rules them out of the title race this season. This weekend Barcelona welcome Levante to the Camp Nou. Levante find themselves in 16th place at the start of the weekend, just 3 points off the relegation zone. The teams around them will see this as an opportunity to gain points on Levante unless they can cause a massive upset.
Barcelona come into this match defending an unbeaten run in La Liga this season and they are yet to lose a match. There have been 14 wins and 3 draws from their 17 games played and while two of those draws have come in their last 5 games, there is no sign of Barcelona letting up this season.
Barcelona have dropped only 2 points at home in La Liga this season, which came in a 2-2 draw with Celta Vigo. They have won 19 of their last 20 home La Liga matches and have remained unbeaten in each of their last 34 matches in all competitions. Valverde’s team have kept a clean sheet in 8 of their last 12 La Liga games and scored 2 or more goals in each of their last 20 home league matches.
Levante come into this match having defeated Espanyol 2-1 away from home in the Copa Del Rey on Thursday night to claim their first win in 7 matches in all competitions. Their form in La Liga is very poor and Levante have picked up just one win in their last 12 games and that came away from home at Las Palmas on the 19th November. Since then, Levante have lost 2 and drawn 3 of their league games, including a good 0-0 draw at Sevilla.
However, Levante have struggled to score goals in recent games and have failed to find the back of the net in 4 of their last 5 La Liga games. This is not the form you want to be in when heading to the home of the team with the best defensive record in the league.
Barcelona will be without the suspended Sergio Busquets in midfield and this could see Sergi Roberto move into the middle of the pitch with Nelson Semedo playing at right-back. Central defender Samuel Umtiti is injured so Thomas Vermaelen should continue in defence. Levante are without the injured duo of Ivan Lopez and Alex Alegria. They also have three players suspended and Enis Bardhi, Jose Morales and Jose Campana will miss the match, removing much of their goal threat.
Betting Tips (Ladbrokes & William Hill)
You will not find a team more certain to win this weekend anywhere in Europe in the bookmakers’ eyes than Barcelona and that’s why they are priced at just 1/16 with William Hill to take maximum points. Given Barcelona’s excellent defensive record this season and Levante’s troubles in attack, Barcelona to win to nil makes a good bet and this is on offer at 4/6 with Ladbrokes. Given what appears to be a large gulf in quality between the teams, Barcelona’s forwards will see this match as an opportunity to add a few goals to their name. You can get 7/5 with William Hill for Luis Suarez to score 2 or more goals.