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Barça beat Levante

Tuesday will be brutal, warns schemer Xavi

The best news of the night for Barcelona and their fans broke before kick-off: in the meeting with UD Levante at Camp Nou, Eric Abidal returned to the starting line-up for the first time since his liver transplant, the France star helping the Catalan giants to warm up for Tuesday’s Champions League semi-final first leg away to Bayern with a win, although the La Liga leaders struggled for long spells against the team in 12th and required a late Cesc Fabregas strike to seal the points.

Lionel Messi was missing for Tito Vilanova’s side, with Xavi, Pedro, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets starting on the bench. Barça’s first clear-cut chance arrived on 17 minutes, but David Villa saw his penalty saved by Navas. On the half hour, Dani Alves rifled in a 30-yard free-kick but also saw his effort stopped by the Levante keeper.

The home side were fortunate in the first move after half-time when Levante’s Acquafresca was controversially pulled up for offside after scoring what looked like a perfectly good opener. Barcelona picked up the pace again with the clock running down, sub Alexis Sanchez eventually releasing Fabregas to slide home what proved the winning goal after 84 minutes. If results in the next round of matches go their way, the Catalans could clinch their 22nd domestic title at the weekend.

Xavi predicts ‘brutal’ encounter

However, there is the matter of Bayern to deal with first. “Tuesday will be brutal,” Xavi was quoted as saying by tz, “Munich as a city lives for football.” The midfield genius is well aware of FCB’s recent results: “It's true they’re in stratospheric form at the moment, but Champions League matches are decided by nuances. We’ll do whatever it takes to get a good result in Munich.“

The Catalans are expected in the Bavarian capital at around midday on Monday. Barça’s obligatory pre-match press conference is scheduled for 6 pm at the Allianz Arena, described by Xavi as “one of the most significant stadiums in the world,” before Messi and Co start their pre-match training session at the stadium at 7 pm.

Barça line-up against Levante:
Victor Valdes - Dani Alves, Adriano, Abidal, Montoya - Thiago Alcantara (Pedro 67), Song, Iniesta (Xavi 59) - Tello (Sanchez 77), Fabregas, Villa