Levante UD v FC Barcelona  - Liga BBVA

Offshore drilling, Spain: Barcelona 2, at Levante 1

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Man of the Match: Messi. Next.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Barcelona continues to dare people to come at them. After three years of teams playing deeper and deeper on them, head coach Pep Guardiola started playing with only three defenders earlier this year. Now, he’s gone to four forwards, a 3-3-4 a formation he used again today.
  • Whether the formation was particularly effective (or, at least more effective than how Barcelona might otherwise play) is hard to say. Levante were playing very deep and very narrow, at one moment having eight players within two steps of the arc. In that regard, it looked like a typical Barcelona game – a bunch of guys trying to break down a bunch of other guys, all hanging around this big box.
  • Levante shouldn’t have had their opener. Sergio Busquets’ arms were drawn into his chest when a Vincente Iborra header hit them, yet Juan Igancio pointed to the spot, booking Busquets. It was less a penalty than activism, implying that every time a ball hits a hand, there should bea  whistle. Some people have always felt that way, but they don’t usually get to officiate top-flight matches.
  • As the teams left the field at halftime, Levante having held their 1-0 lead, you could barely detect Barcelona was trailing. The players were neither happy nor upset as they went down the tunnel. It was just business as usual. If the pressure of a high-intensity, must get all points title race is affecting them, you can’t tell.
  • Barcelona’s first was a typical Messi strike, including how the goal was made. Even before playing the ball to Adriano at the edge of the box, Messi knew where he was going. By the time the ball was at his teammate’s feet, Messi was in space, ready to put home number 62.
  • It’s remarkable you don’t see more teams asking their players to do that. If you want to play more like Barcelona, start with how running more. Messi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Alexis – these players don’t wait to see if their passes are successful. Before they play the ball, they know where they’re moving next. Once they’ve released possession, it’s their job to get to the new spot as soon as possible. It’s not a complicated concept, but for as many teams that claim to want to play like Barça, how many have implemented this basic concept?
  • Last note on Messi’s first goal: For a team that was playing with only three defenders, Adriano (their left defender) was awfully deep into attack.
  • People are going to complain about the final goal, thinking Barcelona was awarded another gift penalty kick. It’s just a shame this particular call doesn’t fit that mold. Pedro Botelho had both his hands on Isaac Cuenca, and while you could argue the contact was incidental were Cuenca running to Botelho, the Levante man was coming in from the side (at best). He was beaten. It’s a clear penalty, and while you hate to see spot kicks decide matches, it seemed like the right call.
  • In case you missed it, here are the match highlights.
  • Barcelona is back within four of Real Madrid at the top of La Liga ahead of next weekend’s Clásico. It’s a must-win match for the defending champions, though they can’t start their preparations yet. Mid-week, Barcelona faces Chelsea in Champions League.

VIDEO: Marco Verratti plays a brilliant pass to Eder for Italy goal

PALERMO, ITALY - SEPTEMBER 06:  Marco Verratti of Italy in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Qualifier match between Italy and Bulgaria on September 6, 2015 in Palermo, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
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Italy took a 1-0 lead over Azerbaijan through the in-form Eder in the 11th minute, but the true leg-work (see what I did there) came from bite-sized midfielder Marco Verratti.

The PSG playmaker pinged a beautiful long ball over the top of the Azerbaijan defense that fell right at the feet of Eder, who let the ball settle itself and touched home confidently past Kamran Arhayev for a 1-0 lead.

The goal is the second of Eder’s national career in just five caps, having scored on debut against Bulgaria back in March. He has six goals in seven matches for Sampdoria so far this Serie A season.

Italy needs three points in this match to ensure qualification to Euro 2016. A win would guarantee them a place in the field, while anything less would mean there is work to do in the final match on Tuesday against Norway.


Later in the match, Stephan El Shaarawy gave Italy a 2-1 lead just before halftime, his second career international goal and his first since September of 2012 which came in his third career start.

Agent: Liverpool contacted Klopp only after Rodgers firing

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 09:  Jurgen Klopp arrives to be unveiled as the new manager of Liverpool FC at a press conference at Anfield on October 9, 2015 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
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As soon as Brendan Rodgers was dismissed by Liverpool on Sunday, Jurgen Klopp’s name was tossed around as the likely successor to the then-vacant Liverpool managerial position.

However, according to Klopp’s representatve Marc Kosicke, Liverpool did not make contact with the German until after Rodgers had been officially let go.

“The first call from Liverpool came after the dismissal as coach of Rodgers,” Kosicke told Bild. “Before Liverpool there were naturally quite a few inquiries. But Jurgen always asked me not to take it any further.”

Club management was less committal than Klopp’s rep, but did say they had their eye on the German for some time. “We have learned to keep certain matters confidential. We had a meeting recently with Jurgen that he has talked about and I don’t want to talk too much about these conversations. But we have thought about him for a long time and everyone who knows football knows he is an outstanding manager.”

It’s relatively hard to believe Liverpool would have canned Rodgers without knowing for sure that a top-level target such as Klopp or Carlo Ancelotti were on board to replace him. It also would mean discussions of the contract terms and logistics would have moved at lightning speed, with just four days between the Rodgers dismissal and Klopp’s official unveiling.