Barcelona Lose To Levante In Copa Del Rey

VITORIA GASTEIZ SPAIN – APRIL 7

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.

Barcelona have lifted the trophy in each of the last four campaigns and have been present in all but one of the last eight finals, but have ground to make up in the second leg of the last-16 tie at Camp Nou next week.

Valverde defended his team selection, insisting the injection of youngsters Juan Miranda and Chumi, along with new arrival Jeison Murillo, was a gamble worth taking.

The defending champions were heading for a convincing defeat following early goals from Erick Cabaco and Borja Mayoral, who is on loan from Barca's rivals Real Madrid.

Barcelona's Denis Suarez was one of three players thrown on by Ernesto Valverde and the midfielder, linked with a move away from the club this month, earned the penalty which Coutinho netted to boost the chances of turning the tie around next week.

Barcelona pushed for the equaliser and came close late on through Dembele, but his strike was well saved by Fernandez as Levante secured an advantage from the first leg.

"When Dembele wasn't playing, everyone was asking me about him", Valverde told reporters.

Jasper Cillessen routinely came to Barca's rescue in the opening 45 minutes and the Netherlands goalkeeper did so again just beyond the hour, rushing off his line to foil substitute Jose Luis Morales in a one-on-one.

Arsenal target Denis Suarez was brought on however and won his side's penalty with six minutes remaining after a superb individual run down the inside right channel.

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.

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