Barcelona: Barcelona had a controversial penalty to thank as they grinded out a narrow 2-1 win at Levante to close the gap on Liga leaders Real Madrid to four points ahead of next week's Clasico meeting.
Barkero gave the home team a surprise lead with a penalty before Lionel Messi levelled with half hour to go. The Argentine then stepped up to score a spot-kick as Barca took all three points.
Barcelona started the game brightly and after some early spells in possession, forged their first opportunity on goal in the 10th minute. Alexis Sanchez's cross found Thiago in the box six-yards out yet the midfielder could only flick his header wide from goal.
Nine minutes later Thiago should have done better again with his head following Lionel Messi's inviting free kick. The young midfielder was able to ghost past his marker but headed his effort straight into the grateful arms of Gustavo Munua.
In the 22nd minute the home side were awarded a penalty against the run of play. Barkero's corner was parried by Victor Valdes with Juanfran's follow up striking the hand of Sergio Busquets' earning the defensive midfielder a yellow card in the process. Barkero calmly stepped up to slam the ball down the centre of the goal with Valdes diving to his left.
Despite the Blaugranas continuing to dominate possession they could have gone into half-time two goals down when Levante created a glorious chance in the 38th minute. Adriano and Valdo's collision left Pedro Lopez with plenty of space to attack the Barca goal down the wing. The full-back cut in field before dragging his shot narrowly wide of the goal from the edge of the box.
Despite the Catalan giants keeping possession well in the early stages of the second half, a sloppy pass from Thiago nearly allowed Levante to double their lead. Arouna Kone took the ball off the Spain international before charging upfield and sliding it to Barkero in the Barca penalty area. The playmaker attempted to play the return ball with Valdes out of his goal yet Carles Puyol was on hand to mop up the danger.
With Barcelona stepping up the tempo they got their just rewards in the 64th minute when Messi equalised. The Argentine played a clever one-two with Alexis before slamming the ball into the far corner of the net from the edge of the box - the attacker now scoring in 10 consecutive Liga games, equalling a record held by Ronaldo and Mariano Martin.
On 71 minutes Guardiola's men were awarded a controversial penalty after Isaac Cuenca and Pedro Botelho collided in the box with the assistant referee flagging for a spot-kick to be given. With the pressure of Catalunya on his shoulders, Messi stepped up to smash the ball into the top corner, sending Munua the wrong way to draw level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Pichichi - both men now on 41 Liga goals this term.
Levante attempted to fight back yet Barca comfortably saw out the game to claim a priceless win in Valencia.
Barcelona travel to Stamford Bridge on Wednesday for the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Chelsea while Levante are next in action in Liga at Sevilla on April 21.