Barcelona falls short of unbeaten La Liga season after resting Lionel Messi for Nelson Mandela friendly

Barcelona's dreams of finishing the Spanish league season unbeaten has disintegrated. On Sunday while resting Lionel Messi, Barca lost at Levante, 5-4, in a big-time upset. It was Barca's first loss of their La Liga campaign, and the team was actually down 5-1 before nearly mounting a wild comeback. Ernesto Valverde opted to sit Lionel Messi before a friendly in South Africa this week to commemorate what would have been Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday. 

Luis Suarez scored a penalty kick to cut the deficit to one with 20 minutes to go, but Levante's defense held firm and earned the three points. Philippe Coutinho got his first hat trick in a Blaugrana uniform, but it wasn't enough in a horrible defensive display from the visitors. It's Barca's first league loss in over a calendar year (April of 2017) in what was an absolutely wild Sunday in soccer. 

In the end, it is still a great season for Ernesto Valverde's squad. The team won La Liga and the Copa del Rey, and going undefeated would have just been icing on the cake. Now, off to South Africa for a friendly with the Mamelodi Sundowns. 

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CBS Sports Writer

Roger Gonzalez is an award-winning writer based in Virginia that has covered pro soccer from Europe's top clubs to Argentina's first division. Roger started out his pro soccer writing career with Goal.com... Full Bio

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