Ousmane Dembele's brace and a second-half goal from Lionel Messi ensured Barcelona beat Levante 3-0 at Camp Nou, as they comfortably overturned a first-leg deficit to progress to the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Trailing 2-1 in the tie, Ernesto Valverde handed a start to Messi and he played a part in both of Dembele's goals before making sure of the aggregate victory by finding the net himself just after the break.

However, Levante president Quico Catalan had already said his club will challenge Barcelona's progression, with reports in Spain suggesting the LaLiga champions fielded an ineligible player in the previous meeting.

Defender Chumi featured in that game, even though he had been due to serve a suspension after picking up five bookings in the Segunda Division B, and Catalan told reporters prior to kick-off on Thursday that Levante would lodge an official complaint to the Royal Spanish Football Federation.

The selection of Messi, who did not feature in the first leg, was an indication of Barcelona's intent to progress, and the Argentinian twice came close to scoring in the opening 25 minutes, with goalkeeper Aitor Fernandez parrying away a free-kick before diverting another try wide with his foot.

Yet Barca soon went ahead on aggregate as Dembele benefitted from two moments of good fortune to score twice in as many minutes.

First, the ball looped up off the Frenchman and went in following Erick Cabaco's desperate slide tackle, before Dembele's weak finish from a tight angle was helped in by Fernandez's foot to make it 2-0.

Messi was then played in by Dembele only to see his effort from point-blank range denied by Fernandez, the keeper then thwarting Philippe Coutinho and Messi again before the break.

Barca's aggregate lead was only a solitary goal until Messi finally got on the scoresheet nine minutes into the second half.

Dembele was involved as he threaded a superb pass through to Nelson Semedo, who squared the ball for Messi to slot past Fernandez for the home side's third.

A hat-trick alluded Dembele, though, as he fired just wide late on, while the woodwork denied Emmanuel Boateng scoring for Levante in stoppage time.
 

What does it mean? Barca through, for now

Levante president Catalan's comments prior to kick-off did not serve as a distraction to Barcelona, who did the job on the pitch. As it stands, they will be in Friday's last-eight draw, though the powers-that-be may have something to say about that.

Dembele at the double

He only scored four times in his debut campaign at Camp Nou but Dembele already has a dozen in 2018-19. There was a degree of luck in both of the 21-year-old's first-half goals, but his link-up play with Messi suggests he is beginning to feel more at home.

Chance to impress passes Coutinho by

Dembele is not the only one to have experienced early struggles in his Barcelona career, with Coutinho as yet failing to hit the same heights he reached at Liverpool prior to his January 2018 move. The Brazilian, who was withdrawn for Luis Suarez just after the hour mark, has still not scored from open play since October.

What's next?

Leaders Barcelona will look to make it seven wins in a row in LaLiga when they host Leganes on Sunday, with Levante hosting Real Valladolid on the same day.

Levante president Quico Catalan has confirmed his club will lodge an official complaint to the Spanish Football Federation over their Copa del Rey tie with Barcelona, with reports suggesting the LaLiga champions fielded an ineligible player in the first leg.

Barca slipped to a surprise 2-1 loss in the first meeting last week, their first defeat in all competitions since a 4-3 reverse at home to Real Betis last November.

Ernesto Valverde named a much-changed line-up for that fixture, including selecting Chumi in his starting XI.

However, the Barcelona B defender was due to serve a suspension after picking up five bookings in the Segunda Division B.

The return leg was held at Camp Nou on Thursday and Catalan confirmed Levante will go the authorities and make a legal case over the matter, regardless of whether they advance or not.

"It is not an easy situation, us sporting people like to win on the pitch," Catalan said to reporters prior to kick-off.

"Whatever happens, Levante will go before the federation with this situation tomorrow (Friday).

"There will be a complaint if we do not qualify. And if we do, there will be a report to the federation to explain what has happened.

"We understand there is sufficient precedent which allows Levante to, unfortunately, go ahead to the Federation with these facts.

"Our legal department will keep working and will work all night to prepare the details of the statement we will send tomorrow. But we understand that we have the precedent and the solid foundations to do so."

In-demand Ajax sensation Frenkie de Jong wants to make a decision on his future quickly amid ongoing speculation.

Marcelo Bielsa's explanation of the questionable scouting methods scrutinised during 'Spygate' led the Leeds United boss to reveal how his detailed dossiers once surprised even Pep Guardiola.

Barcelona boss Ernesto Valverde is open to welcoming new recruits in January but remains tight-lipped over the possibility of signing Frenkie de Jong.

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is convinced head coach Ernesto Valverde will still be in charge at Camp Nou next season.

Barcelona legend Xavi believes Bayern Munich star Joshua Kimmich would fit perfectly at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi paid tribute to team-mates past and present after reaching 400 LaLiga goals for Barcelona in Sunday's 3-0 win over Eibar.

Girona forward Cristhian Stuani was non-committal when asked about speculation linking him with LaLiga champions Barcelona.

Barcelona have rejected a report that claimed Neymar's father has contacted the club regarding setting up a return from Paris Saint-Germain.

Neymar joined PSG in a world-record deal in August 2017 but reports he has failed to settle in the French capital have been regular.

Barca captain Lionel Messi has spoken in favour of Neymar heading back to the LaLiga leaders, with reports this week claiming Neymar's father had been in touch over a possible deal.

Ernesto Valverde distanced himself from such reports and club spokesman Josep Vives said at a news conference on Tuesday there was no call from Neymar Sr to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

"In the first place, that's not the case, and Neymar left because that's what he decided, and from there we have nothing more to say," Vives told reporters.

"We never talked about players who have contracts with other clubs, at the time he decided to leave Barca, a completely legitimate decision on his part."

Barca are reportedly trying to sign an attacker during the January transfer window following the sale of Munir El Haddadi to Sevilla, while PSG's financial situation has led to suggestions Neymar could be sold.

Valverde said earlier this month that permanent deals were unlikely to be concluded by the club this month, with Jeison Murillo joining on loan from Valencia to address a defensive injury crisis.

Barca's transfer kitty could be boosted by Paulinho's loan to Guangzhou Evergrande being converted into a permanent deal, however.

Vives told reporters the Chinese Super League side have already paid the fee, reported to be €42million, to complete the transfer.

"We would like to publicly explain the details of such a beneficial operation," he added.

"But we cannot do it because we are subject to a confidentiality clause with the Chinese club.

"The agreement is magnificent, good for the player, also for the Chinese club and very good for Barcelona."

New Sevilla signing Munir El Haddadi claims Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde was "forbidden" from playing him by the club's hierarchy after the forward said he did not want to renew his contract.

Real Madrid will host Barcelona in the second LaLiga Clasico of the season on the evening of March 2, league president Javier Tebas has revealed.

Barcelona full-back Jordi Alba wants to stay at Camp Nou but is unsure if LaLiga's reigning champions will offer him a new contract.

Alba's future is up in the air with his Barca deal ending in 2020 and no renewal forthcoming at the moment.

The 29-year-old Spain international, who arrived from Valencia in 2012, has previously expressed his bemusement over a lack of progress regarding a contract extension.

Asked about the situation following Barca's 3-0 LaLiga victory against Eibar on Sunday, Alba said: "Everything is still the same for me, I have a year left on my contract and I don't know what the club thinks. I'm calm.

"They have to see if they want to renew me and when they do want to renew me if that is the case.

"I want to stay here as this is the club that I love and have always supported, but it depends on them.

"For me, I can only control my own performance which I think has been good, but I don't expect anything from anyone."

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola said the Premier League champions cannot compete with LaLiga powerhouses Barcelona and Real Madrid in the transfer market.

City have been linked with 21-year-old Ajax and Netherlands sensation Frenkie de Jong, who is also the subject of interest from Barca, Madrid and Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

Guardiola did not reference De Jong but conceded City face a difficult task beating Barca and Madrid when it comes to transfers.

"If you are the only one who want players it's easy. But if you want one and many, many clubs want him it's more complicated, especially if it's Madrid or Barcelona," Guardiola told reporters.

"Normally when you are involved with Madrid and Barcelona you are going to lose. You have to be quicker and more efficient.

"But I'm not talking about the case of the Ajax player because he is an Ajax player. There are many players, not just one if it doesn't happen."

City - who are second in the Premier League behind Liverpool ahead of Monday's clash against Wolves - have also been linked with Ruben Neves to provide cover for holding midfielder Fernandinho.

Wolves midfielder and Portugal international Neves has impressed following the club's promotion, however, Guardiola insisted City cannot afford the 21-year-old amid talk of a £100million fee.

Guardiola added: "Fernandinho's role, it's so difficult to find [a similar player]. He knows the Premier League, after three years together here, he knows everything and that's so important. But, of course, for the next season it's an important target to find. He'll be 34 and he cannot play every few days.

"A month ago, I started reading 'Ruben Neves, £100m.' That is not going to happen, we are not going to pay £100m for a holding midfielder. Of course, all departments in the club, we have in every position four or five or six options – depending on age, what we believe and, of course, the price.

"Our wage bill for the players is eighth or ninth or 10th in Europe, so there are eight or nine clubs where the wages are higher than what Manchester City pay. We try to be stable in everything.

"When we spent a lot last season, it was because the team was old – it was 30-31 years old and that's why we did it. But we cannot do it every season. We have a limit and cannot spend more so that's why we need to be careful with the players and try next season to see what we can do to improve."

Lionel Messi reached another incredible landmark on Sunday as he scored his 400th LaLiga goal in Barcelona's game against Eibar at Camp Nou.

The Argentina international has had a remarkable impact on Spanish football since making his debut in the 2004-05 campaign, and he becomes the first player to reach 400 goals in LaLiga.

Having come through Barca's academy ranks and burst on to the scene as a teenager, Messi has gone from strength to strength and enjoyed astonishing levels of consistency in Spanish football.

Although his goals grab the headlines, he has shown himself to be so much more than just a goalscorer during his time in Barcelona, with his dribbling, passing and work rate making him arguably the perfect footballer.

Much of his career has been dominated by a personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo during his time with Real Madrid, but Messi's records speak for themselves.

Having reached another milestone with his effort against Eibar, we take a look at the Opta stats behind Messi's sensational haul of 400 LaLiga goals...

 

2 – Messi is the second player to score 400 goals in Europe's top five leagues. Ronaldo, who has 409, was first.

1 – Messi is the first player from Europe's big five leagues to reach 400 goals for the same club.

435  – Messi has reached this latest landmark in astonishing time, needing just 435 matches. By comparison, Ronaldo needed another 63 matches to get there.

29 – The Argentinian superstar has scored more LaLiga goals than 29 clubs in the division's history.

56.98 – While Messi's minutes-per-goal ratio of 83 this term is an exceptional record, it is some way off his personal best of 56.98 in the 2012-13 season, when he netted 46 times in 32 LaLiga games.

50 – Messi's best LaLiga season in terms of goals was the 2011-12 campaign, when he found the net 50 times.

31 – His record of 31 hat-tricks (27 trebles and four four-goal hauls)  is the second most in LaLiga history. Only Ronaldo (34) managed more.

25 – Messi's favoured opposition in LaLiga in Sevilla, having scored 25 goals against them in 24 matches. In the same amount of games against Real Madrid, he has converted 18 times.

29 – Luis Suarez has set up more of Messi's 400 than anyone else, claiming 29 assists for the Barca talisman.

105 – Messi has a remarkable habit of scoring at decisive moments in games. No fewer than 105 of his goals have come in the final 14 minutes of the match.

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