Barcelona lose to Levante in Copa del Rey

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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 are at risk of a last-16 exit from the Copa del Rey after a 2-1 first-leg loss at Levante left their trophy defence in doubt.

However, the La Liga leaders improved after the break and Philippe Coutinho's late penalty gives them hope of progressing to the quarterfinal heading into next week's second leg at Camp Nou.

The home side doubled their lead soon after with Borja Mayoral, on loan from Real Madrid, spinning past Jeison Murillo to fire low into the far corner.

"The result is not the best", Murillo was quoted as saying by Marca.

"The tie is open after Coutinho's goal", Busquets said.

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The on-loan Los Blancos attacker then fired another attempt wide of the post moments later, before Malcom just failed to meet an Ousmane Dembele cross down the other end as Levante led 2-0 at the interval.

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

Ernesto Valverde urged Philippe Coutinho to continue fighting for his position following the playmaker's goal-scoring return to Barcelona's starting XI.

Levante had another golden opportunity in the 64th minute when Jose Luis Morales was found by Mayoral inside the Barcelona box, but the substitute saw his effort saved over the crossbar by Cillessen.

Reported Arsenal target Denis Suarez came on and got his side back into the contest by winning a penalty as he was upended by Coke after dribbling into the area.

The second leg takes place at the Nou Camp next Thursday.

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