Barcelona proved exactly why the Copa Del Rey means the King’s Cup as they beat Levante 3-0. Using statistical analysis, we analyse how this match progressed.

After the 2-1 loss in the first leg (comprehensively covered here), Barcelona return to the Camp Nou as they face Levante. A late converted penalty by Philippe Coutinho provided the away goal. Right from the moment the squad selection was announced, it was very apparent that Barcelona had decided to step-up their game.

Unlike last time, a very strong team was announced. Nobody was selected from Barcelona’s B team, unlike the first leg. With Barcelona having made their intentions clear well in advance, let’s analyse how this match played out.

Recent Form

Barcelona has been in excellent form in La Liga. Winning their last 6 league games with an aggregate of 18-1, Barcelona is league leaders. 5 points ahead of Diego Simeone’s Athletico Madrid, Barcelona should be able to turn over this 2-1 loss easily.

Levante is a completely different story. Winning only one game in La Liga in December, they trail on aggregate 14-10. Barcelona have always found Levante to be tricky opponents. The infamous loss to them, the surprising first leg loss this year all lead to the atmosphere being very tense.

Build up

There was much anticipation to this match. This match was fought on and off the pitch. Barcelona played Barcelona B defender Chumi, in the first leg. According to Levante, this should be illegal as he had picked up a suspension in the Segunda league. But Barcelona was sticking to their side saying that is not applicable.

Coutinho had not been in the best of form recently. But the last match was very good and it could be a turning point for him. Whether Valverde would start him, remained to be seen.

This looked to be an important match for Enis Bardhi. The Macedonian was one of the worst players when Levante last lost to Barcelona. Here, playing against Barcelona’s first team, it would be important for him to prove himself.

Cilessen has consistently been excellent when given a chance. He is not a selection problem for Ernesto Valverde right now, but this match could change it.


The lineups were announced and as expected Barcelona put out a very strong team and so did Levante.

Barcelona (4-3-3)

Manager: Ernesto Valverde
Barcelona was going with Jasper Cilessen in goal. In defense, Lenglet was joined by new boy Jeison Murillo. On the right was Portuguese right back, Nelson Semedo. Jordi Alba retained his spot at left back. In midfield, the trio of Arthur, Rakitic and Vidal looked very strong. The front three were Dembele, Messi, and Coutinho. Some key players were clearly rested. Suarez, Pique, Busquets, Sergi Roberto was on the bench. Youngster Carles Aleña also made the bench.


Manager: Paco Lopez
Levante had gone with a very defensive option. In goal, Fernandez had the back three of Rober, Postigo, and Cabaco in front of him. The midfield of five was with Enis Bardhi, the freekick specialist, to the left of Prcic along with Simon. Campaña and Coke played to the right of Prcic. The front two were the real threat. Ex-Real Madrid player Mayoral along with last season’s hat trick hero, Boateng.

Key Players


Messi naturally was one of the key players. Along with La Pulga, Brazil’s Arthur was bound to be a key player initiating many forward passes and key passes.


For Levante, young striker Emmanuel Boateng was very important. Despite having the lead, Boateng’s hold up play and fast dribbling were essential. Borja Mayoral had been in good form and he was also counted on. Bardhi would be very important in midfield.

How it unfolded

0′-15′ (0-0)

The first fifteen minutes, Levante had no say in the game. Having a lot of possession, Barcelona were strong in attack through Ousmane Dembele. Surprisingly, Leo Messi lost possession numerous times. Barcelona’s new signing, Murillo was very calm when needed.

15′-30′ (0-0)

Levante was very compact and looked to put immediate pressure. Whereas, for Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic dropped between the defense to transition the ball. Levante created a few chances but always lacked an end product. The tempo of the match was slower.


This period was the most eventful. Dembele’s speed was a constant problem. In the 30th minute, Messi played a pass to Dembele who had made a great run. Levante tries to clear it but it came off Dembele to go into the goal. The second goal was another stroke of luck. The French youngster made another great run which resulted in a good pass and a chip over the keeper. The ball would have gone out of play if not for the goalkeeper’s legs hitting it.

Half Time(2-0)

45′-60′ (3-0)
Early into the second half, Coutinho latched onto Messi’s ball and puts it into the net. Unfortunately, the goal was disallowed due to offside. In the 54th minute, Dembele picked up the run of Semedo superbly. Semedo pulls it back to Messi and he delicately chips it over the keeper’s legs.

Levante enjoyed a bit of possession here. Both teams made substitutions. Suarez came on for Coutinho who put in a great performance. A very slow period for Barcelona as they neither looked threatening nor threatened. Levante created a few chances.


Suarez gets a chance to score which is saved. Cilessen shows his dominance in the box by punching away the ball. In the 92nd minute, Levante gets their best chance on goal as Boateng hits the woodwork.
The match finished 3-0 as Barcelona comfortably progressed to the next round.


Barcelona transitioned into a 3-4-3 with Semedo moving up into midfield. His pace allowed him that freedom. The key men were very clearly Leo Messi and Arthur. As shown in the figure below, Messi was his usual self of unlocking the defense at will. Always making the right decision was what made Messi valuable in open play. Whereas, Arthur was very much the orchestrator. Without Busquets, Arthur was the one recycling possession along with Rakitic. This duo proved to be more than a handful for Levante.

Arthur was dangerous with his passing as he stayed back in open space.

Levante played in a very defensive 5-3-2. Boateng was the lone striker up front. Enis Bardhi and Mayoral were almost like attacking midfielders. Levante played very compactly up the pitch. Enis Bardhi was passing the ball around and dictating his team. Levante was not very effective in keeping possession throughout.

Levante relied on Bardhi as an advanced playmaker.

Sustained Attacking

Barcelona had 65% possession in total. Sustaining their attacking was what they built play upon. Upon losing possession, Barcelona would immediately press. This resulted in Barcelona recovering 80 balls to Levante’s 60.

This aggressive pressing did make a difference. But what mattered was how Barcelona made use of this situation. Barcelona made eight counter attacks in this match. Three of which resulted in shots. they also made 43 progressive passes with a 71% accuracy. Throughout the match, Barcelona constantly looked to pass the ball forward and into the final third. This caused Levante to be very defensive minded. Boateng was a lone striker and Bardhi played as an advanced playmaker.

Barcelona made 199 passes into the final third. This huge number caused the chances to be created. It was no wonder Barcelona had more than 1 shot on target per 10 minutes.

The X Factor

Ousmane Dembele was very impressive in this match. The French winger scored twice but could have scored even more. His pace was no match for Levante’s defense. In the example shown, we see how even though Barcelona was outnumbered, they created chances.
The perfect run by Dembele was such that Messi could slide the ball to him. Simultaneously, his speed made it impossible for defenders to tackle him fearing a penalty.

Dembele’s pace was a constant problem

Dembele was very impressive throughout. His chemistry with Nelson Semedo was astounding. Playing on the right, both are very quick and agile. Many times, Dembele would slide the ball between defenders just as Semedo overlapped him. This would cause a number of problems. Such a play resulted in Messi’s goal. In the image shown, we see the advanced position Semedo is in. He pulls the ball back through two defenders and Messi finishes the job.

Semedo pulls the ball back to Messi which is then converted.

Another example of Dembele’s skill is shown. He executed a perfect chip over the defense to free Leo Messi.

Ousmane Dembele executes a chip over the defense to Messi

Levante lacked this x-factor horribly and it was a very disappointing performance from an otherwise lively team.

Movement off the ball

For Levante, wither Bardhi or Mayoral would transition between midfield and attack frequently. As shown in the image below, had Barcelona tried marking the player that dropped back, Levante would have played the ball to Boateng. This tactic failed to work as Levante would immediately lose possession during the transition.

Bardhi or Mayoral would transition between midfield and attack hoping to create space by destabilizing their marker.

Arturo Vidal would many times join the attack. Some conditions for this were very clear. Whenever Messi or Coutinho got the ball to the edge of the box, Vidal would move up. Dembele and Vidal would be in the box and this even resulted in a few good opportunities through headers. Vidal would also be playing on the edge of the box during the attack. Joining most attacks, was an important part of numerical superiority in many passing combinations.

Barcelona -Levante-Tactical-Analysis-Statistics
Arturo Vidal would frequently join the attack at the edge of or in the box

Arthur was an important cog in the midfield. With his great passing ability, Arthur usually stayed back on attacks. With plenty of open space in front of him, he could play precise passes to teammates. Usually, he would take his time on the ball but when needed, playing quick passes was no problem. With these, he could also start attacks.


Levante came with a great game plan. But at the rate which Barcelona moved up the pitch, they were helpless. The quick recycling of possession of Barcelona combined with organised play was not manageable for Levante.

After such a performance, a 3-0 win to Barcelona was more than enough for them to advance to the semifinals as they look to win the Copa Del Rey for a record consecutive 5th time.