Hello Barcelona fans! Welcome to Tuesday’s live blog.
We’ll have all the updates as Barcelona look to build on their impressive over Levante on Sunday.
The La Liga leaders won 5-0 thanks to another Lionel Messi hat-trick but now attention turns to Saturday and Celta Vigo, who have been a bogey side of late.
9:30am – Valverde warns against complacency
Ernesto Valverde has warned Barcelona against complacency after admitting to knowing little about their Champions League last-16 opponents Lyon.
The Catalan giants avoided Liverpool, Roma and Ajax in Monday’s draw but were set the challenge of a developing team that stormed through Group F unbeaten.
Valverde, who led his side comfortably through a group containing Tottenham and Inter, conceded his knowledge of the Ligue 1 outfit is limited, but his side need to be very wary.
8:30am – Lyon draw offers Champions League opportunity for Barcelona
The draw for the Champions League Round of 16 took place on Monday, with Barcelona paired with Group F runners-up Lyon.
Lyon are third in Ligue 1 and posed plenty of problems for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in their group, but Barcelona will be quietly confident heading into the tie – read more here.
Ernesto Valverde admitted Barcelona’s last visit to Levante was still on their minds as Lionel Messi inspired them to a 5-0 victory.
Messi scored yet another hat-trick as Barcelona laid a few ghosts and cemented their place at the top of La Liga.
The Argentina star completed his 49th career hat-trick with his 50th goal for club and country of 2018 as Barca romped to a 5-0 victory to ensure they remain three points clear at the summit.
The reigning champions needed no reminder of their last visit to the Ciutat de Valencia, when their dream of completing an unbeaten domestic campaign was extinguished in a sensational 5-4 defeat in May – their penultimate game of the season.
“We are happy because last year we played here and conceded five after a whole season without losing,” Barca coach Valverde was quoted by the Spanish press as saying at his post-match press conference.
“That was only a few months ago, they are having a great season and they keep showing that.
“We remembered last year and we managed to put it behind us and leave with a clean sheet.”
Levante started well again on Sunday and could have taken the lead when Emmanuel Boateng hammered a shot against the underside of the crossbar which just stayed out.
“Because of the result it will look easy, but it wasn’t so much, especially at the beginning,” he said.
“They started as we imagined. We had to change the set-up based on the casualties we had so it was difficult for us and they squeezed us.
“They’re able to score and dangerous when they counter-attack but we had the fortune of opening the score.”
If he'd scored that late free kick I'd have considered a 10 :)))— Andy West (@andywest01) December 16, 2018
Boateng’s miss proved costly as two minutes later Enis Bardhi’s attempt to play his way out of trouble backfired spectacularly. The loose ball fell to Messi, who jinked his way across the outside of the penalty area before providing an improbable reverse pass for Luis Suarez to volley home.
Two minutes before half-time Messi doubled the lead, this time after a mistake by Ruben Rochina on the halfway line. Rochina’s pass went straight to Sergio Busquets, who immediately sent Messi racing through to fire through the legs of keeper Oier and into the net.
Levante had clearly not learned their lesson as, two minutes after the restart, another loose pass in midfield handed Barca their third.
This time Suarez led the charge before feeding Jordi Alba, who drove the ball across the area for Messi to sweep home.
Messi the playmaker competing with Messi the striker as no one else comes close in both categories.— Sooraj Kamath (@sooraj_kamath) December 17, 2018
Messi completed his treble on the hour, Suarez bulldozing his way down the left before crossing to Arturo Vidal, who laid the ball back for the Argentinian to tap in.
Valverde said of the Argentina ace: “I don’t know how to describe Messi, it’s the most asked question.
“He is the player who makes us play and scores great goals.”
Levante’s already slim hopes of replicating last season’s scoreline disappeared when they lost Erick Cabaco to a red card 14 minutes from the end.
Instead Gerard Pique helped himself to the fifth, wandering the length of the field exchanging passes as he went before wrapping up the scoring.
Valverde added: “We’re in a good dynamic and now we have the game with Celta, which is important in order to go on our holidays with this advantage (at the top of table)”.
Provided by Press Association Sport
Lionel Messi scored a sumptuous hat-trick as Barcelona cruised to a 5-0 win over Levante in La Liga.
Gerard Pique and Luis Suarez also got on the score sheet with the five time Ballon d’Or winner providing a superb assist for the Uruguayan’s effort.
While the Argentine was busy writing the following day’s headlines, Ousmane Dembele was playing as a right wingback for the first time in his professional career.
Here, we analyse his performance in the unfamiliar role.
Shots – 0
Key passes – 0
Passes – 35
Pass accuracy – 80%
Tackles – 3
Interceptions – 1
Dribbles – 7
Crosses – 2
With Nelson Semedo and Sergi Roberto both sidelined at the moment, Ernesto Valverde made the bold decision to play Dembele at right wingback in a 3-5-2 system.
The Frenchman did look out of place to begin with but grew into the role as the match progressed. He provided plenty of thrust down the right flank as you would expect but also held his own defensively despite a couple of clumsy moments in the first half.
However, he needed to rely on his pace to get back into position and though it worked against Levante, better opposition would most likely have exposed him and punished Barcelona.
He never had a sight at goal though in this withdrawn role and couldn’t threaten with his devastating runs in behind as he had to arrive from deep instead.
That said, perhaps it was also a ploy by Valverde to bestow a more disciplined role to the youngster who has gained a reputation for being in the bad books at Camp Nou.
Recovery – What Dembele has in abundance is pace and he used that to good effect when having to track back. So while he wasn’t always where he was supposed to be, he was able to recover and get back in time.
Dribbling – His attacking threat in the final third was mitigated but he did have plenty of space to run into. He registered more dribbles (7) than any other player on the pitch.
Positioning – It’s a good thing he’s quick because he did get caught ball-watching at times. While Jordi Alba ventured forward equally on the opposite flank, he picked his moments well and that was a notable difference.
Tackling – His tackling wasn’t as bad as expected. He made one really clumsy one at the start and earned a booking for it. To his credit, he had a couple of clean ones later on.
It was a worthwhile experiment and perhaps against inferior opposition, Dembele can reprise the role again but he is certainly not a legitimate option at wingback in the bigger games. However, it was encouraging to see the 21-year-old carry out his task dutifully and with commitment. He didn’t seem to think it beneath him and didn’t do a haphazard job. Valverde would’ve enjoyed his response.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com