Barcelona suffer shock defeat to Levante

Barca's Munir El Haddadi

Barca's Munir El Haddadi

Barcelona's recent iron grip on the Copa del Rey came under threat as they lost 2-1 at Levante in their last-16 first-leg tie on Thursday after resting a host of first team regulars, including Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (L) celebrates a goal with teammates during the Spanish League football match between Levante and Barcelona at the Ciutat de Valencia stadium in Valencia on December 16, 2018.

Early goals from Erick Cabaco and Borja Mayoral were enough to give Levante victory over the defending champions.

In the end, 2-1 was how the encounter ended as the Catalan giants will now fancy themselves to get the job done at the Camp Nou in the second leg.

Levante, who did enjoy a 5-4 La Liga win over Barcelona last season, were ahead after just four minutes through Cabaco as the defender rose highest to nod in Ruben Rochina's free-kick from six yards.

Barcelona threatened, Malcom and Ousmane Dembele forcing saves from Aitor Fernandez, but failed to create any clear-cut chances in the first half.

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India struggled to retain the ball, the defenders making hasty clearances and a midfield that was nearly non-existent. For the first time ever, twenty-four nations will compete in the pan-Asian competition instead of the usual sixteen.

Levante had another golden opportunity in the 64th minute when Jose Luis Morales was found by Mayoral inside the Barcelona box, but the substitute saw his effort saved over the crossbar by Cillessen.

Having already used the first two substitutions for the defence, Valverde threw on reported Arsenal target Denis Suarez for Malcom in the 68th minute as his last throw of the dice.

What does it mean?

That is, of course, unless the Blaugrana boss decides a fifth successive Copa del Rey triumph is not among the club's pressing priorities.

The 26-year-old too often afforded Mayoral space in which to operate around the penalty area and paid the price on Levante's preventable second goal.

Colombia global Murillo has voiced a desire to turn his short-term stay into a permanent deal - which Barca can push through for €25million - but his first 90 minutes in the shirt did not do much to advance that cause.

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